24 Nov 2020
Council services tackle smoking, obesity and diabetes with new engagement tools
Home to 870,000 people, life expectancy across Staffordshire has risen year on year, but its ageing
population still face an average 17.5 years of poor health. To further extend lives, but crucially
increase the number of healthy years, Staffordshire County Council runs a range of public health
With around 40% of ill health preventable, and obesity, smoking and diabetes the major factors, the
Council’s support services aim to help people make better lifestyle choices. This includes one-to-one
support sessions; providing advice, medication and information to help people make long term
Although effective, the team identified that face to face appointments don’t work for everyone, and
even during COVID-19, when appointments were moved online, the format still stops many people
from engaging. Some people can’t make the time of day, others, prior to COVID-19,couldn’t get to
the clinic, and a significant number don’t want to face a person with their lifestyle choices.
For a number of years the Council has explored using digital technologies to improve support for
residents, and so in-line with this thinking, the Public Health team looked at how technology could
be best used to reach and engage with people to change behaviours and extend the services offered.
The team conducted research, looking at the market and what services are available on G-Cloud.
They’d been aware of ORCHA and saw that it was the only organisation who could effectively enable
the Council to connect people with reviewed and trusted health and care apps, and so the team
engaged ORCHA to work with them to integrate these into its lifestyle services.
ORCHA’s implementation team worked with the Public Health team to identify the most important
health challenges its residents face, then identified and mapped the most effective apps to each of
these. ORCHA ensured that each app had been robustly reviewed against 300 measures and, where
appropriate, additional COVID-19 criteria.
An App Library was then built tailored to the Council’s branding and health priorities. A carousel of
pre-prepared searches for each of the priority health areas was included. This was embedded via an
iframe within the Council’s website, so that it could be easily found: https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/appfinder. ORCHA Pro Accounts were also added to the library, which would enable staff to logon to their own account, keep a favourites list of their preferred apps, recommend apps via email or text to residents, and keep a track of who has been
recommended an app and if they have downloaded it.
After two months of development, the programme was ready, a training programme was rolled out
across Adult Social Care teams, social prescribing teams, the local NHS Trusts, and the information
services within libraries. This enabled teams to start recommending apps to service users.
Engaged with the programme, teams made favourite app lists and when they spotted a new app
that wasn’t on the library, they asked ORCHA to review it, to make sure it was safe. Ifit made the
grade it was added to the library, but if it didn’t (as 85% apps don’t), the team knew to warn service
users about it.
To make residents aware of the programme, the team created a three-month paid-for social media
campaign. It focused on the positive difference apps can make, encouraging people to visit the
library and choose an app. The campaign targeted certain groups of people, by geography,
demographic and interests. Initially the focus was placed on those over 50 years old, tailoring the
images and messages to maximise engagement.
The programme has been successful, with good engagement levels by the public through the social
media campaign, and strong levels of recommendations by service teams.
Feedback from staff has been extremely positive. They have been comfortable with the library,
finding it very easy to use and have been reassured by the review process behind every app selected
to be featured. It has made them more comfortable recommending an app to supplement their care
In its first five months of launching, the library has seen around 4,000 sessions, with approximately
10,000 pages viewed. People have searched for help with everything from Fitness and Nutrition, to
Mental Health, Dementia and Diabetes and already downloaded hundreds of apps.
Steve Tranter, Stop Smoking Practitioner, Everyone Health, describes his experience: “I’ve used the
ORCHA tools to identify and send apps which I feel will benefit service users. I have been able to
identify apps to help clients not only stop smoking, but also with a wide range of additional
challenges, including apps to help improve overall health and wellbeing; nutrition and food apps for
those seeking to lose weight; mental health apps for clients who are suffering with anxiety,
depression, stress and OCD; sleep apps to help clients sleep better; and MSK apps to help a client to
relieve a persistent shoulder pain.
“Its design and ease of use is one of ORCHA’s particular highlights. Each specific app is categorised
and can be accessed just by using the scroll bar. In addition, you can also just type into the keywords
box your specific search and then it gives you a breakdown of all the apps available to assist. There is
a huge selection of apps available once have performed your search, it is then just a case of scrolling
the huge quantity on offer and using the filters (budget, platform, etc) to help you find the App
which you feel will assist the client with the particular issue they need help and support with.
“To recommend or send an app it is just a case of typing in the client’s email or mobile number and
then clicking to send the recommendation. This will then be sent directly to the client’s phone via
text or email for them to download. The app that has been sent can then provide them with some
additional support right at their fingertips.”
The Public Health team see the library as an effective tool it can use to tackle challenges including
obesity and smoking. But they don’t see the library as a product that after they’ve purchased the
work is done. To keep achieving results, they believe they need to keep it alive. With this view, they
continue to educate the workforce on health and care apps to maintain enthusiasm and education.
They have also identified champions within each service delivery team, who will continue to find
apps for testing and support other members.
Communications have been central to the success of the programme. Following the dedicated social
media campaign, the team have embedded the apps library into their wider heath campaigns. Apps have been at the heart of its recent STOPtober campaign, for example, offering a practical, measurable, call to action.
Commenting on the programme, Lucy Gratton, Commissioning Officer, Public Health and Prevention,
Health and Care Directorate, Staffordshire Council, summarises:
“Apps offer a real, practical solution that people can engage with to make a difference to their
health. Carried with them all day, they can offer regular motivation and feedback that other formats
of intervention can’t. They also appeal to people who, for whatever reason, do not want to engage
with traditional services.
“But lots of apps aren’t safe and so it was essential for us to connect our residents with apps we
know are assured and will make a difference to their life changes. The ORCHA reviewing and library
have been essential for us to achieve and deliver this.
“The programme has been a success. We see the number of recommendations and downloads
growing and know that for many, it is helping to change their lives and become healthier.”