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Learning Disabilities Healthy Living Project Wins National Award

A project that encourages adults with learning disabilities to eat more healthily has won a national award.

The Healthy Eating/Healthy Living Project for Adults with Learning Disabilities picked up the gold in the Tackling Health Inequalities & Improving Health category in the recent COSLA awards.

A joint Glasgow City Community Health Partnership and Glasgow City Council initiative, the project teaches people with learning disabilities how to be more healthy through practical exercises such as cooking, reading pictorial recipes and shopping in their local supermarket.

Rhoda Macleod, Adult Services Manager with Glasgow City Community Health Partnership, said: “We’re delighted the project won this award. It’s testament to the hard work of the project team to bring it to fruition.

“The project was set up because we recognised that many people with Learning Disabilities can’t read and write well (many not at all), and don’t benefit from the wealth of traditionally produced health information that’s out there.

“Around 2% of the Scottish population have some form of learning disability and in Glasgow that equates to around 5,000 people. Added to that is the fact that people with Learning Disabilities are known to be more at risk of certain illnesses and conditions such as being overweight or obese, Coronary Heart disease and epilepsy. Up to 80% may also have poor sight.

“Taking all that into consideration, we produced a project pack that puts across healthy eating messages in a more easily understandable way: we used simple messages and lots of images. Feedback from participants has been very positive.”

So how did the project work? A pilot was set up at Berryknowes Resource Centre in Cardonald – which offers services to people with Learning Disabilities – in 2008. It was so successful, the project team put in a successful bid for a Scottish Government Grant and used the money to set up healthy eating projects in:
• Summerston Resource Centre (with people attending from Killearn Centre and Hinshaw Street Centre)
• Touchbase, Kinning Park, Glasgow (with Sense Scotland)
• Berryknowes Resource Centre, Cardonald
• The Wedge, Pollok
• Leverndale Hospital, Glasgow
• Thornliebank Resource Centre, Thornliebank
• Kinnoull Resource Centre, Perth

Each project has its own manager and two healthy eating champions, and it’s the champions who, assisted by a food support worker, take forward the training.

The training lasts for 26 weeks (usually half a day a week) and focuses on seven food topics:
Sugar, Fruit and vegetables, Fat, Fibre, Healthy bones, Salt, Food labelling

Participants learn about each topic through classroom activities, shopping, cooking and tasting the food they make. They are also encouraged to take part in some form of physical exercise each week as well. Each person is given a certificate on completion of the course.

Rhoda continued: “We are currently in the process of developing a DVD for participants to take home so that they can share the healthy eating messages with family and carers. The DVD gives messages about the three main food topics: fat, sugar, and fruit and vegetables.”

To date, 35 people with Learning Disabilities have taken part in the course and the project team are now looking at ways of making the pack available to a range of provider organisations so that many more can benefit.

Pic cap: Margaret Burns, Sheena Morrison, Dorothy Morrison, Rhoda Macleod, David McLean, Jim McDonald , Jackie Bird (who presented the award)