When it bid in 2011 to host the 2015 European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress — Europe’s largest medical conference — the city of London “had to come up with a really special, compelling proposition,” said Becky Graveny, head of associations for London & Partners, the city’s official promotional company. A big part of that proposition was London’s ongoing investment in life sciences, Graveny said, where “there’s been a huge amount of development.”
Another critical piece when it came to securing the congress — which brought nearly 33,000 medical professionals from around the world to ExCeL London on Aug. 29–Sept. 2 — was how London would activate the legacy of the ESC, to make heart health more top of mind for Londoners. “We came up with lots of ideas about what we could do,” Graveny said. “We knew from the British Heart Foundation [BHF] that walking was really important.”
So, working with the BHF, ExCeL, and King’s Health Partners — in association with ESC — London & Partners created the London Heart Trail. A one- to two-hour walking trail along the city’s South Bank with views of its iconic attractions, including Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the dedicated trail was an active attraction for two weeks surrounding the congress, kicked off by the cast of the musical “Annie Jr.” Five heart-shaped trees, signage, and educational leaflets with heart-healthy tips reinforced the connection between walking and cardiovascular health.
A free app was available for download to make the trail interactive and “extend the ESC legacy,” Graveny said. Via the app, walkers could take challenges, answer questions about heart health, unlock clues for prizes, and donate to the BHF. The app, which was live until the end of last month, was downloaded more than 1,000 times as of this writing, by which point the London Heart Trail had generated 9,300 likes, comments, and shares via VisitLondon’s social-media channels. Graveny said London & Partners may explore the possibility of turning the app back on in the future.
“It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this,” she said. “It’s been really exciting to engage with a charity and our partners to make it happen, and it really ticked [ESC’s] boxes in terms of their mission statement to reduce cardiovascular disease in Europe.”
Positioned “as more of a consumer thing rather than a business convention bureau thing,” the London Heart Trail was promoted on visitlondon.com to encourage citizens and visitors to experience the city in a more active way, Graveny said. During the initiative, there were 6,000 unique visitors to site’s London Heart Trail landing page and 3,000 entries in its competition for prizes.
In a press release welcoming the ESC Congress to the city, London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “The focus of the medical world will once more be on our great city as a leader in science, education, and medical innovation, making it the perfect opportunity to also get Londoners and visitors thinking about the simple steps they can take to look after their health. Walking is one of the best — and healthiest — ways to explore the capital, and the London Heart Trail App will signpost some of our greatest attractions whilst learning about our own health and wellbeing at the same time.”