Research shows that 30% of absences in the police force are related to musculoskeletal related pain and injuries. Police Officers from Devon & Cornwall have been undergoing health and wellbeing checks at The Sport & Health Science Labs, and Marjon Sport & Health Clinic at Plymouth Marjon University.
Expert staff at Plymouth Marjon, and students studying a range of Health and Wellbeing-related courses are able to provide every officer from the First Response, Crime Investigation, and Neighbourhood departments in Plymouth with a holistic and thorough health check. This better helps us to understand and improve the health and wellbeing for frontline officers in Plymouth.
The Police health checks with Marjon University started in June 2017, after Detective Sergeant Simon Foster & Dr Saul Bloxham met to discuss future plans. The unique facilities and professional advice available at Marjon University presented an opportunity for research, which is used to create individually tailored nutritional advice, functional fitness programs, with general advice to better support their wellbeing. The project has given students studying courses such as Sports Therapy, Strength and Conditioning, and Rehabilitation in Sport and Exercise the opportunity to get hands-on experience in research and practice for police health and wellbeing.
After a successful initial pilot, the Police funding was agreed for all officers from 3 frontline departments to attend Marjon University for a full health and MSK check-up. The health checks include 1 hour in the Sport & Health Science Lab looking at things such as a break down of cholesterol, blood sugars, blood pressure, resting heart rate & body composition. This is followed by an hour in the Sport & Health Clinic looking into any musculoskeletal pain or injury.
Chris Puleston, Sport and Health Science Laboratory Assistant at Plymouth Marjon has been running the health checks alongside Alex Walker, Sport & Health Clinic Supervisor. Chris and Alex have been carrying out the health checks with the essential support of Eleanor James, a Sports, Physical Activity and Health student, who based her Dissertation on the Police Health Checks project.
Eleanor said: “I feel this is a really positive project, which is beneficial to those who are part of it as a way to gain knowledge on their health. Cholesterol and blood glucose levels especially are not something people have tested often, and it’s usually because its reached a stage where something needs to be done, however after providing this information, I've observed that many of the officers have started asking questions on how to make positive changes to their health and wellbeing.”
Since starting work on the project, Chris Puleston has seen the day-to-day problems that Police Officers are facing in their jobs. He said: “Some of the Officers that have come in for their health checks have told us about how their shift patterns make it really difficult to maintain a healthy balanced diet due to disrupted sleeping patterns and unprotected breaks. These inconsistencies can have a real effect on the Officers’ health, because they are not getting the right nutrition when they need it to perform at work. This inevitably takes a toll on their physical & cognitive ability. In the health checks, we are providing them with targeted nutritional advice & workout plans. The Marjon Sport & Health Clinic are aiming to provide rehabilitation for Officers who are suffering with injuries, with the intention of increasing understanding and providing support which can have a huge impact.
Our placements students have been integral to the delivery of this within the lab. They have been working alongside Eleanor who has taken the lead role on this project and she has been using the results for her Dissertation work. This is invaluable experience for our students to gain experience in providing on the spot nutritional and training advice to clients based off their results.”
The first 2 departments have now completed the health checks, and 90% of attendees said the visit had a positive impact on how they manage their health & wellbeing. After taking part in an anonymous survey following their health check, many have reported back with overwhelming positivity:
“It was a nice break and felt like my health and wellbeing was being looked after.”
“This is a huge step in the right direction. If this sort of thing were to become common place, morale would be lifted, and people would feel better.”
The data collected from the first round of health checks has been used to design an infographic and poster for role specific health advice. This focused on Fitness, Yoga, and Nutrition. These posters have now been put up in all 32 Devon & Cornwall Police gyms, and links to online video workouts have been made available on all Police IT systems.
Alex Walker spoke about some of the patterns that are emerging from the health checks:
“It isn’t realistic to expect Police Officers to do full workouts on-shift because it can be quite time consuming and a lot of them are training already, so they know the drill. The yoga-flow workouts are really helpful because they’re short, and they’re more functional, so they’re designed to help with the common problems we’re seeing in a lot of the Officers, and there’s been a really great reaction to them. Part of our job is to understand how we can get Officers to engage in the work we’re doing, and to take the advice we’re giving them, and I think this project is doing really well at getting them involved and interested in their health and wellbeing.”
This project will continue to work alongside Devon and Cornwall Police, using information they gather in the health checks to provide a holistic health check service which cares for Police Officers and supports them with their health and wellbeing, long-term.
Find out more about Health and Wellbeing at Marjon here