Costing the Walking for Health Programme

Published in: Natural England Commissioned Reports, No. 099, July 30, 2012, p. 1-55

Posted on RAND.org on July 01, 2012

by Lidia Villalba van Dijk, Mirella Cacace, Ellen Nolte, Tracey Sach, Richard Fordham, Marc Suhrcke

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BACKGROUND: When Walking for Health was launched in 2000 walking was not considered a serious form of exercise. Now the health benefits of short, regular, brisk walks are widely understood. The Department of Health considers that health walks can be a way of increasing people's levels of physical activity and improving their health. In 2007, Department of Health and Natural England working in partnership with local statutory and voluntary organisations took the decision to invest in an expansion of Walking for Health as part of the package of public health initiatives aimed at getting people more active. As part of the Walking for Health expansion a programme of evaluation was established. The aims of the programme were to evaluate, quantitatively and qualitatively, both health and environmental outcomes from the Walking for Health intervention. To deliver the breadth and depth of evaluation Natural England has worked with research and academic partners. This report was commissioned through University of East Anglia and RAND Europe. Walking for Health is a physical activity intervention with the primary purpose of making a positive difference to people's physical health. Other studies have looked at the differences the intervention makes to people's level of physical activity (NECR068, 2011). This report presents research the economic costs of Walking for Health. Specifically, the economic costs involved in delivering the programme. These include financial (or accounting) costs and opportunity costs, which are the values of the foregone costs that could have been dedicated some other objective. The results presented in this report are based on a small sample of schemes representative of the variety across the programme as a whole. The results of this work provide a useful insight into economic costs of running local Walking for Health schemes, and the overarching national support programme. The costs are presented by scheme type, walk hours, and walk register. As the report concludes, these data do not provide insight into the cost-effectiveness of Walking for Health as health outcome data were not considered. The purpose of Natural England commissioning this study was to increase our understanding of economic costs of establishing and running a volunteer lead initiative. Natural England will use these findings to inform and support communities in the development of local initiatives to facilitate access and engagement of people with their natural environments.

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