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LCLA 2016 winner

Libraries Change Lives Award Winner 2016

The Library and Information Service at Norfolk County Council has won the 2016 Libraries Change Lives Award for its ‘Healthy Libraries’ initiative; a countywide programme promoting healthy living and targeting the county’s most serious health priorities through the Norfolk library network.

About the winner

Working in partnership with Norfolk Public Health, the Healthy Libraries initiative is delivered across Norfolk’s forty seven libraries. Socially-based group wellbeing activities include a monthly wellbeing or nutrition themed ‘neighbourhood lunch’ and adult colour-me-calm sessions. Exercise based activity has included hula hoop challenges and a pedal-powered smoothie bike, used to raise awareness of the benefits of the government-recommended target of five a day fruit and vegetable portions. Practical sessions include slipper swaps to prevent and reduce falls among the elderly.


Building on the existing universal health offer of UK public libraries, Norfolk’s libraries are actively promoting public health, with staff trained in understanding health improvement and mental health first aid to offer information, advice and guidance on local health services including signposting suitable local health projects.

Almost two thirds (65.7%) of the adult population of Norfolk are overweight or obese and instances are increasing among the child population of Norfolk, who have one of the lowest levels of childhood activity in the East of England (49.7%). An estimated 16,400 people in Norfolk have dementia (diagnosed or undiagnosed) and the recorded annual number of strokes is very high. Norfolk’s population has an older age profile than England as a whole and falls are estimated to cost Norfolk and Waveney health and social care services around £19 million every year, not including unknown costs such as GP time treating people who have fallen.

Success so far

As well as actively promoting health and nutrition, the service is helping to target the county’s key health challenges including obesity, early years’ health and falls among the elderly, which currently cost local Public Health an estimated £19 million every year. Between May 2015 and April 2016, over two thousand Norfolk residents participated in a dedicated health-based activity under the programme

Award acceptance speech from Sarah Hassan, Assistant Head of Service at Norfolk

Thank you to CILIP for this award. It is a real honour to receive it on behalf of the library service in Norfolk.

The success of this project has been down to the sterling efforts of individual staff and also library teams who have made it work locally.

My colleague Alison Rainton has co-ordinated the county task group and supported the creation of the Healthy Libraries catalogue for example. My other colleague Kymm Lucas has made it happen on the ground at Great Yarmouth Library - which featured in the video clip.

Library teams are the filter through which Healthy Library activity has happened. Library staff, customers and volunteers have been able to enter at any level they choose and tailor what happens in their Healthy Library, to the local community. So if customers express an interest in walking for their health, or there is an obvious need for a friendship group, then a very small amount of money for staffing, materials and refreshments can make those things happen.

We have found that the rest will then follow - people and partners want to get involved, supermarkets will donate fruit and veg for the smoothie bike activities, a tremendous amount of goodwill is generated and we can make sure that all sorts of health messages are embedded. As we know, these are important for our staff as well as for our customers.

The £4,000 we have won will help us to take the next steps. Libraries have always done an amazing amount on a shoestring but this will help us make much more happen because it means that we can open it up for staff to bid for amounts of money from it. Bidding for small pots of money has proved to be a very successful way of engaging people in the past year.

We will continue to work with the Public Health team in Norfolk as well as doctors surgeries to continue to embed the Universal Health Offer in all our libraries. This is now no longer a project but part of our mainstream service and I think for many of our staff a real mission.Thank you all again.

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