IDEA4The aim of our ‘Healthy Venues’ initiative is to minimise the negative health impacts of conference-going. The programme is one of our six Action Initiative campaigns, and allows event organisers and delegates alike to make the healthiest choices at a variety of meetings.

Each year in the United States alone there are an estimated 225 million visitors to conventions, conferences, congresses, trade shows and exhibitions, incentive events and corporate/business meeting. All too often these events (even if they are about health issues) are unhealthy affairs with poor access to healthy food and limited opportunities to exercise.

The initiative was created to tackle obesity from all angles, and to take different opportunities to make healthy choices the easy choice within people’s everyday lives. Running meetings ourselves, we are all too aware of the standard offerings at conferences (often unhealthy food with limited opportunities to exercise) and the traditional conference programme involving eight hours of lectures a day, fuelled by caffeine and sugar in the short breaks with a side order of high fat food for lunch, which is not the best!

We make a point of always striving to try and make the experience the most positive it can be for our delegates. So, as well as a programme full of exciting and innovative content, we offer healthy food and positive refreshment breaks, with standing ovations and plenty of opportunities for active travel to and from the venue.

We only launched the programme at the end of 2015 but the response so far has been fantastic. There has been clear acknowledgement from the industry that there is a requirement for such an accreditation, with a number of venues in the process of becoming accredited. The SECC in Glasgow, who were the first to accredit (Silver), have been delighted. They’ve found that their client engagement has improved and they now have a mechanism for enhancing their meetings with a unique offering. The way accreditation works means that the entire workforce has to be engaged and energised by the changes, which has meant better interdepartmental communication and improved team working, and they have something that sets them aside from other venues which is great for their marketing. Recently, after our global obesity conference, ICO 2016, Vancouver Convention Centre attained Bronze accreditation for their commitment to Healthy Venues. Healthy Venues has already hit a global scale, meaning there is great potential for our initiative to grow fast!

We are in a great position as a global organisation to offer an accreditation to venues all over the world which acknowledged their work to improve the experience of their delegates and to nudge them towards healthier choices.

Ultimately, Healthy Venues seeks to make positives changes to a negative lifestyle. At our meetings we promote healthy food and active behaviour, which in turn lead to fruitful minds and thriving work environments.

Our accreditation programme encourages venues to support their visitors in making healthier choices. With our guidance, venue managers must demonstrate how they can provide healthier food options and encourage physical activity, both within and around the venue. In return they secure a competitive advantage with a credible endorsement that they can offer to event organisers (achieving either Bronze, Silver or Gold accreditation).

Alongside a formal accreditation process, we work with venue managers and planners to improve their health footprint (their “healthprint”). We look holistically at the attendee experience, including healthy meals and snacks from vending machines, food content labelling and encouraging people to use the stairs rather than lifts and sign-posting physical activity options around the venue.

As a charitable organisation tackling obesity, we are strongly concerned about constant inactivity in the workplace. Obesity is now reaching pandemic proportions across much of the world, and as a population, we are falling into sedentary behaviour (thanks to desk jobs, cars and a general lack of activity) instead of engaging with healthier alternatives. Moreover, our diets are becoming increasingly dominated by saturated fat, sugar and salt. As with the worldwide acknowledgement of environmental issues some years ago, the debates surrounding healthy lifestyles and obesity are very much on the agenda and being acknowledged globally. Programmes like Healthy Venues are needed to ensure the obesity crisis is tackled from all angles.
Our short term goal is to let as many people know about Healthy Venues as possible. It would be great to get venues accredited on all continents and start to see the programme grow.

Further down the line we see potential to expand the programme to other types of venue such as hotels and convention bureaus, and even beyond.