A special edition of the Lancet  published prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games set out the compelling and indisputable evidence that physical activity performed on a regular basis is good for our physical and mental health, for a connected and vibrant society, for the environment and the economy.
Described as the ‘best buy’ in public health and as important a modifiable risk factor for chronic disease as obesity and smoking , physical activity enhances and sustains our health as we age, supports us to work well for longer and helps prevent and treat non-communicable chronic disease.
The problem is that we’ve engineered physical activity out of daily life, resulting in the majority of society and particularly the least affluent experiencing negative physical, mental and emotional health with huge medical, psycho-social and economic consequences. In Sheffield, for example, there is a 20-year difference in healthy life expectancy between the poorest and richest parts of the city.
It is unsurprising then that local, regional and national policy and strategy, including the Industrial Strategy  and NHS Long Term Plan point to a radical need to re-think disease prevention and public health, and increase the populations physical activity.
Interventions to improve public health
According to Matheson and colleagues (2013) in an International Olympic Committee consensus statement, physical centres to design, implement, study interventions to improve health could make a significant contribution to tackling the burden of non-communicable disease.
Importantly, these centres must adopt human-centred design in the creation of prevention programmes with an inclination to action and rapid prototyping – an approach that matches that taken across industry and elite sport.
These centres should also foster meaningful collaborations between local communities, local authorities and employers in health care, industry and technology sectors to co-design solutions.
Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) is the first of these centres globally and is at the vanguard of the global challenge to reduce inactivity.
By bringing together expertise across a range of academic disciplines at Sheffield Hallam and creating meaningful partnerships across industry and the public sector, the AWRC can make a significant contribution to tackling the burden of chronic disease and thereby transform lives.
Our strategic themes
The vision of the AWRC is to transform lives through innovations that help people move. To achieve this, we will focus our efforts across 5 strategic themes:
- Undertake world-class research in physical activity,
- Develop collaborative community, academic and industry partnerships to co-design and evaluate products, interventions and services that help people move
- Provide consultancy services to global businesses, dynamic SMEs and the public sector including incubation and acceleration services to take concepts through to commercialisation
- Act as an innovation centre for health and care services - co-designing products, interventions and services that improve the social, behavioural and environmental determinants of health.
- Through postgraduate courses, CPD and apprenticeships, educate and train the next generation of researchers who can work across academia and industry.
Located on the Olympic Legacy Park alongside the Oasis Academy and University Technical College, the AWRC is part of Darnall, one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of the City.
The AWRC therefore has a key role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of the local community. This will be achieved through alignment with the University’s civic engagement plans; providing the community with access to academic staff to design and evaluate programmes, provide training and apprenticeships for the local community, and hosting and supporting community engagement events.
 Kohl 3rd, HW, Craig CL, Lambert EV, et al., (2012). The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health. Lancet. 380 : 294-305
 Lee IM, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F, et al., (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet. 380 : 219-229
 The government's Industrial Strategy sets out four high level challenges (themes) for academics, industry and public entities: Ageing, Mobility, Robotics/AI, and Clean Growth.