Horizon Leisure’s Community Health and Wellbeing Manager

Emma Cunningham, 31, is Horizon Leisure’s Community Health and Wellbeing Manager.  Here we will learn about her career, as well as her successes and aspirations for the charitable leisure trust.

Emma says: “Health and wellbeing is in my blood and I’m passionate about the positive impact exercise can have on everyone’s health, both physically and emotionally. There is nothing that can’t be made a little better through movement.”

Emma has a degree in Sports Science PE from St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and a Masters in Clinical Exercise Sciences from Portsmouth University, as well has having a Level Three Fitness PT qualification. Whilst travelling in her year out, she worked for the New Zealand Institute of Sport, where she was really inspired by their advanced rehabilitation programme and decided this would be the focus of her career.

She joined BH Live at Mountbatten Leisure Centre in Portsmouth 2015 on a placement as part of her Masters, delivering health on referral plus teaching a few exercise classes.  She went on to join the team full-time as the Health on Referral Co-ordinator and was further promoted to Health and Fitness Manager, overseeing the rehabilitation programme and exercise on referral at the gym.

Emma explains: “I joined the Horizon Leisure team from BH Live in July 2022 and in many ways it feels like I’m home because I learnt to swim at Waterlooville Leisure Centre as a child and had a teen membership there too. My Dad was even one of the founding members of Horizon Leisure, many years ago!”

Since joining, Emma has revitalised Horizon’s health on referral scheme and has also been instrumental in launching Horizon’s first-of-its-kind Wellbeing Hub in the Meridian Shopping Centre and supporting the opening of Horizon Leisure’s Guilford site.  She is also responsible for many of the community-led programmes, including Flourish, Communities Against Cancer, ESCAPE-pain, Long-term conditions swim sessions, Pulmonary Maintenance classes, Dementia-friendly cricket/sports, Walking netball, Pre/post-natal classes, and a Baby and Parent Group where parents have direct access to a GP and a breastfeeding expert.

Emma consistently works in partnership with councils, healthcare providers and community leaders, including Havant Borough Council, Hampshire County Council, Energise Me, Southern Health NHS and South East Hants MIND. 

Emma says: “At Horizon Leisure, health intervention initiatives are being introduced for individuals of every age, ability level and varying health needs. These community-focused groups not only foster better lifestyle habits, but also generate socialisation opportunities, helping to mitigate social isolation among participants.”

“I’m incredibly passionate about this joined up approach to wellbeing and really see community leisure as an invaluable lifeline for the community. Horizon Leisure is here from cradle to grave and everything else in-between, and I’m committed to making health inclusive and affordable to all.”

“I’m especially proud of the success of our Wellbeing Hub and the recent inclusion of a SurgeryPod, which takes blood pressure readings that feed directly into local GP’s practices via a secure computer system. Since launching, our data tells us that 70% of those testing have high blood pressure and have been signposted to their GP practice for next steps. Also, having the team of health experts available at the Hub means that people coming in to test can get advice on how exercise can help reduce blood pressure and help prevent cardiovascular disease.”

Emma has recently been selected to represent Community Leisure UK’s (CLUK) Southwest Region as a Health Champion.  Emma says: “I’m proud of this opportunity, which will help raise awareness and best practice within the leisure sector.  It will also support Horizon Leisure to identify funding streams and bid for commissioned contracts where appropriate. I’m especially looking forward to attending CLUK’s Southwest Strategic Group meetings, which will help Horizon Leisure and other community trusts influence the health and wellbeing agenda, and to engage with the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and the Department of Health and Social Care to help develop a more strategic approach to lobbying and aligning communications.”

“Looking ahead, I am working to introduce our health on referral scheme to our Guildford site, whilst continuing to foster key partnerships and funding opportunities to develop our rehabilitation and wellbeing programmes for all.”

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