Over 400 vendors participated in our annual ‘Health Week’

What is Health Week?

Health Week is The Big Issue’s initiative to encourage a healthier lifestyle among its vendors, through assessing their health and offering ideas and information on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle. We deliver a week of activities focusing on increasing access to health services amongst vendors.

Studies have indicated that eight in ten homeless people has a physical health need, and seven in ten have at least one mental health problem, making such an initiative particularly important for the colder winter months. In line with the ethos of The Big Issue, we aim to encourage the development of long term skills offering a number of drop-ins and workshops for vendors, designed to encourage a self-sufficient approach to personal hygiene and diet, as well as the management of any particular health needs with reference to relevant specialists.

Our survey revealed health problems such as heart conditions, asthma, diabetes, liver problems, rheumatism, angina, bad knees, kidney and back problems. 46% of vendors surveyed revealed that they problems with their teeth.

Themes

The principle themes explored by various classes and workshops put on during health week were physical health needs and access to primary care (including registering with GPs, pharmacists and dentists), mental health needs and wellbeing; health needs relating to drugs and alcohol and access to screening and vaccinations. Again, the emphasis was on vendors taking a proactive approach to the management of their personal health, through providing access to the relevant specialists and instruction on adopting a healthier lifestyle as well as engaging them with specialist agencies in the long term.

Homeless people and those in financial crisis experience some of the poorest health in our communities. Reducing health inequalities is key to achieving the goal of ending homelessness and poverty.

Activities

Big Issue offices around the country offered a number of workshops and activities to encourage better physical health, notably through accumulating information through health questionnaires (the completion of which were rewarded with healthy goodie bags) and offering advice from nurse practitioners and dentists. Other practical measures included administering flu jabs and providing workshops on healthy eating and blood borne virus awareness.

Mental health was addressed in the form of life coaching workshops, alternative treatment therapy and relaxation classes, while awareness concerning drugs and alcohol was provided through training in the use of Naloxone to counter heroin overdose, as well as general information workshops and acupuncture classes.

Outcomes

A number of offices commented on the usefulness of the health questionnaires in particular, as a means of monitoring the specific health requirements of their vendors and subsequently directing them to the appropriate specialist treatment. Our survey revealed that 11% of vendors have absolutely no help with their health whatsoever.

The dentist and specialist nurses were especially popular in London, while Oxford managed to establish a permanent drop-in service from Mind, a mental health charity.

In Bristol, many vendors benefited from mindfulness workshops; Big Issue staff noted that a number of vendors seemed clearly lifted after these sessions.

Meanwhile, several vendors in Birmingham were given access to free haircuts, commenting on how it had raised confidence when selling magazines and the office in Nottingham noted an impressive response to the offer of HIV tests.

In Bournemouth, 10 vendors received flu vaccinations who do not use mainstream health services, while in Bath 11 vendors registered with a dentist and 9 attended the Get Active drop-in and received a free sports pass.

We hope that many of the vendors participating in our Health Week maintain the motivation to keep all their healthy new year resolutions!

Corporate Support

The Big Issue Foundation gives special thanks to all the companies, volunteers and supporters who provided crucial support to this initiative and to all our vendors for taking part in the programme.

Oxfor​d:

  • Lush
  • Daily Info
  • Boots
  • Dog’s Trust
  • Pet’s at Home
  • Alec Turnbull Clinic

Bath:

  • Body Shop
  • Butter Pat sandwich shop
  • Thyme Sandwich shop
  • Bath BID Team
  • Aqua Terra
  • Harvest Health Food Cooperative
  • Sirona health
  • Headmasters Hair dressers

Southampton:

  • Lush Southampton
  • SHARP
  • Crime Reduction Initiative
  • Oral Health Promotion
  • Training for Work in Communities

Bournemouth:

  • Discount Health Food Store
  • NHS

London:

  • Meadow Laboratories Ltd.
  • St Paul’s Cancer Support Centre

Nottingham:

  • The Health Shop/Homeless Health Team

Birmingham:

  • Addaction
  • Bourneville College
  • The Health Exchange
  • Prȇt A Manger

Plymouth:

  • Peninsula Dental School
  • Lush
  • BHF Heart Improvement

Exeter:

  • NHS

Bristol:

  • Bristol Drugs Project
  • Compass Health Centre
  • Roll for the Soul
  • North Bristol Food Bank
  • Lush

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