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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
High hopes for Olympic health boost
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Olympic logo and St Paul's
Medics hope for a positive Olympic effect
The East End of London is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, but the news that it is to be the site for the 2012 Olympics has given it a massive boost.

Rail links are being improved, and tired brown-field site areas transformed into beautiful stadia and accommodation.

All this has had an effect on the area - house prices are booming and employment is expected to improve, bringing much needed wealth to the area in the seven years leading up to the Olympics.

Now local experts are hoping that the health of the area will also get a much needed boost.

We must try to be a bit broader in our appeal
Sheila Adams

Plans are already in hand to improve and increase services to prevent existing medical facilities being swamped by the expected influx of visitors.

Medical clinics will be set up at the Olympic village, sporting venues and hotels where the competitors are staying.

The Homerton University Hospital, designated as the main hospital for the Olympics, is in line for a series of upgrades along with its partner hospitals - the nearby Whipps Cross, University College London Hospital, Barts and the Royal London NHS Trust, Newham University Hospital and Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust - a package worth 1.37 billion ($2.4 billion).

Primary care - GP and community nurse care - is also getting a planned cash injection of 128.9m ($225m).

John Coakley, medical director at the Homerton, said it was too early to be specific about where the cash will be spent.

"There will have to be some building works and up-grading, largely in emergency care and some provision of primary care."

The athletes were expected to bring their own medics, and spectator admissions are expected to be small, but added that the hospital must have the capacity to cope with a sudden influx of patients in the events of any disasters.

"The evidence from other games is that there is not expected to be a huge work load. The health need is not perceived to be that great."

Organisers plan to offer all those directly involved in the games free health care, with free emergency treatment for most visitors.


But Sheila Adams, director of public health for the North East London Strategic Health Authority, said there were high hopes that local residents themselves would benefit from the new facilities, which should improve their health.

"We know that people do become more physically active, and we are trying to ensure that - like Barcelona - we do not end up with a series of derelict buildings.

Celebrations in Trafalgar Square
Battling poor health through sport

"We want to use the opportunity to regenerate housing, transport and improve the opportunities for local people."

She said schemes to try and encourage youngsters into sport were already starting.

The Homerton is already thinking about putting a sports injury clinic onto Hackney Marshes, where local teams play matches on Sundays, as a means of encouraging sport in the area.

"We are hoping to be creative, and that does not always mean being competitive - so we are looking at things like dancing and yoga for young girls who do not like competitive sports.

"At the moment, there is a hierarchy of sports such as football and cricket, but for kids on the estates they might prefer to skate board so we must try to be a bit broader in our appeal."

Mrs Adams said encouraging more physical activity should cut obesity and its health related problems, such as diabetes.

'Interesting times'

John Coakley agreed that it was a fantastic opportunity for the East End of London to benefit from the huge cash injections the games will bring and to channel that into providing a lasting improvement to health and health facilities.

"In terms of the local health it will improve.

"We are hoping that access to football pitches, cycling arenas could be used after the Olympics, and that will have a huge impact on the hospital.

"It will certainly bring changes and these are interesting times."

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