Local Spotlight: Wellbeing kiosk project in Knowsley is “vital” in fight against high blood pressure

Welcome to Local Spotlight, a regular feature in Collaborate, our stakeholder newsletter, that shines the light on the amazing public health people, teams, programmes and projects in Cheshire and Merseyside’s nine local areas that are really worth shouting about.

This month, we are shining a light on Knowsley, which has been seeing the benefits of having a digital wellbeing kiosk being installed in community areas to help prevent high blood pressure.

If you have a story that would be perfect for Local Spotlight, please contact champscommunications@wirral.gov.uk.

Knowsley is on a mission to increase the detection of high blood-pressure related illnesses, which will ultimately result in fewer lives lost to heart attacks, strokes, atrial fibrillation and more.

One of the many innovative projects taking place in the area to support this mission is the installation of a digital machine, the Wellpoint Health and Wellbeing Kiosk, in prominent community settings with high footfall.

The kiosks are self-service, touchscreen input machines, that measures a user’s blood pressure, weight, body mass index (BMI) and other metrics to provide an estimate of the user’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke) in the next 10 years. Personalised results and advice are produced instantly on a printout receipt or sent to users by email. Users can also create an online account to review results and monitor progress over time. Using the machine takes around five minutes and users can drop-in at a time that’s convenient to them.

The kiosks have been commissioned on behalf of local places by the Collaborative and are in place across Cheshire and Merseyside. 12 machines have been active since last September, over 4,000 tests have been taken by nearly 3,000 users.

Photo: Wellpoint Kiosk in Knowsley being used by Cllr Christine Bannon, accompanied by Emma Thomas, Dr Sarah McNulty from Knowsley Council and Lynn Wilson from Volair.

Crucially, the machines are available and accessible to those who need them most, as Dr Sarah McNulty, Director of Public Health for Knowsley, Lead Director for High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and current Chair of the Cheshire and Merseyside Directors of Public Health Executive Board, explains:

“We face significant challenges in Knowsley due to higher-than-average levels of deprivation, which we know has significant impact on the health of our people, and that is precisely why it’s vital that these self-service machines are accessible to our more vulnerable communities and to those who are at risk of living with high blood pressure.

“We have taken care to ensure that Knowsley’s machines are placed in community hubs with lots of different people coming through, and that people feel empowered to use the machine and take meaningful actions to look after their health and wellbeing. In Cheshire and Merseyside, we have over 400,000 patients who require treatment for high blood pressure, but there are also people out there who are undiagnosed and are at an extremely high risk of heart attack and stroke. Our hope is that by having these machines in the community, we can prevent high blood pressure becoming fatal and provide timely access to treatment to those who need it.”

Three sites in Knowsley are currently sharing a kiosk, Knowsley Leisure and Culture Park, Prescot Soccer Centre and Stockbridge Village Neighbourhood Centre, and will be coming to Kirby and Halewood Leisure Centres later this year. To date, the machine has generated over 1,700 interactions, including over 1,000 blood pressure tests by 900 users. One such user was Councillor Christine Bannon, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, who said:

“I found the kiosk incredibly easy to use and I am delighted that the people of Knowsley are benefitting from the machine and it’s being used as much as it has been. This is of course only one scheme taking place in the borough to help tackle high blood pressure but is an excellent example of how the principles of prevention embedded in public health can be utilised to ensure that we catch people who are at risk of heart attack and stroke before it’s too late.”

The principle of the kiosk, that knowing about your blood pressure, BMI, weight, and other health metrics will leave you feeling better educated and empowered about your heart health, is also a key tenant of Know Your Numbers! Week, which takes place every September. Dr Mel Roche, a Public Health Consultant and Lead for the Collaborative’s High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Programme, explains:

“Know Your Numbers! is a campaign led by Blood Pressure UK and is a fantastic opportunity for health and public health professionals to get the word out there about the importance of knowing and understanding your blood pressure and what you can do to improve it if necessary.

“The Collaborative supports the annual Know Your Numbers! week by sharing the resources from the national campaign as well as raising awareness of our dedicated Happy Hearts website and suite of resources for professionals. We know from past experience that this community-level sharing of information has been incredibly effective and we would really encourage anyone working with the community or directly with patients to familiarise themselves with the range of tools available to them. Together, we can help Cheshire and Merseyside really know their numbers and hopefully, see a massive reduction in blood pressure-related deaths.”

To find out more about the Collaborative’s work to reduce blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease, please visit the dedicated programme page. Learn more about the resources available to public health professionals who wish to support Know Your Numbers! week and blood pressure generally here.