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Leadership in physical activity: is this the currency of change in the student healthcare curriculum?
  1. Ann Bernadette Gates1,2,
  2. Ian K Ritchie3,
  3. Fiona Moffatt4,
  4. João Breda5
  1. 1 School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, Derby, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Sport, Health and Wellbeing, Plymouth Marjon University, Plymouth, Devon, England
  3. 3 Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  4. 4 Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  5. 5 World Health Organization Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ann Bernadette Gates, School of Health Sciences, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK; annbgates{at}

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The state of play in healthcare outcomes

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) are the major healthcare challenge for many societies, including those that are more developed. Physical inactivity and deconditioning are inextricably linked to the present and future health outcomes for patients, communities and nations.

This is a changed environment. Traditionally, Western healthcare was focused on curing disease such as infection and cancers. Now, the NCDs are the bigger problem. For this reason, it is imperative that the next generation of healthcare professionals are able to deliver both prevention and treatment services which emphasise the benefits of physical activity (PA).

To do this they must be equipped with the knowledge and implementation skills to provide care and leadership.1 Indeed, given that this is the first generation of society who are expected to outlive their children, this has to be an immediate and transformational community of practice approach rather than the slower, traditional transactional leadership model.

Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are well-known risk factors for the current epidemic of NCDs and the consequent problems of immobility, disability and premature death.2 Therefore, it is essential that healthcare students possess the basic facts and the necessary skills to enable them to deliver the best care to patients.

This means that they must be confident, competent and capable in discussing and recommending PA as an intervention. As a bare minimum, students should be aware of the following four critical points:

  • Insufficient PA is a leading risk factor for death worldwide.

  • Insufficient PA is …

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  • Twitter @exerciseworks, @fimo18, @JoaoBreda2

  • Contributors ABG and IKR were the main authors and sole providers of work with the report and supplementary information. FM and JB provided editorial review and strategic advice for the editorial content and style.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. ABG and IKR were commissioned and funded by PHE and Sport England.

  • Disclaimer JB is a WHO staff member. Views expressed here are his own.

  • Competing interests ABG is a member of the World Heart Federation, Emerging Leaders Programme; Honorary Associate Professor, The University of Nottingham; Honorary Visiting Professor, Plymouth Marjon University; CEO of Exercise-Works! IKR is a retired trauma and orthopaedic surgeon and past president of RCSEd, Chair of Scottish Government Health and Social Care Physical Activity Delivery Group. FM is an assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, and a member of the Swim England Wellbeing Committee. JB is head of WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The PHE executive report and appendices (supplements) are only available electronically from Public Health England, Nick Clarke, Programme Manager—Physical Activity Adult Health and Wellbeing Team, Healthy People Division Public Health England, 2nd Floor, Zone C, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London SE1 6LH. Email:

  • Correction notice This article has been updated since it was published Online First. A disclaimer statement for JB has been inserted.