GAA launch next stage of pioneering project to transform Ireland's GAA clubs into ground-breaking healthy hubs
THE award-winning Healthy Clubs Project (HCP) recognises the GAA club as the heart of many communities and as ideally placed to support families in pursuit of healthier lifestyles.
With almost the same number of GAA clubs as GPs across Ireland, the project offers huge opportunity to host life-changing health programmes nationwide.
Leading GAA ambassadors Dublin football star Philly McMahon, Anna Geary (former camogie player and captain of the Cork senior team), Tyrone boss Mickey Harte, Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny senior hurler and lecturer in nutrition in Limerick Institute of Technology), and Dr Aoife Lane (Head of Department of Sport and Health Science in Athlone Institute of Technology) on hand to support this national wellbeing initiative.
The GAA today launched the next stage of the HCP – and are encouraging more GAA clubs get involved to support communities in pursuit of better physical, social, and mental wellbeing.
Created in 2013, with the support of the HSE, National Office for Suicide Prevention, Irish Life and Healthy Ireland, the intention of the HCP is that every GAA club will become a hub for health and wellbeing.
Each participating club is supported in how best to make their club more health-enhancing, covering a variety of topics including, physical activity; emotional wellbeing; health screening; healthy eating; drug, alcohol, and gambling education; anti-smoking; youth and community development, alongside providing activities for older members of the community.
Since 1884 the GAA has played a key role in communities across the 32 counties.
With 1,600 clubs now in existence and a current membership of half a million, the GAA are well-placed in helping enhance the health of the nation with their HCP.
1 in 4 people in Ireland will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, over 2 out of 10 are smokers, 6 out of 10iii are overweight or obese and over 9 out of 10iii feel they do not undertake a sufficient level of activity, but would like to be more physically active.
In answer to these worrying statistics the GAA HCP is working to empower clubs countrywide to support the health and wellbeing of their members and the wider community they serve.
The project has already run to huge success in 60 clubs nationally, hosting wide-ranging initiatives such as “Operation TransFAUGHmation” (Castleblayney Faughs, Monaghan) which started out with 105 participants in 2011 and has grown to 250 people taking part in 2016, the award-winning “Cork Beats Stress” (Midleton GAA and St Finbarr’s GAA clubs in Cork) which saw over 300 participants in a proactive mental health management programme, and the Healthy Food Made Easy initiative (Thomas David GAA Club, Dublin) which taught people (ranging between 37 to 90 years) how to prepare delicious healthy food.
Ballinderreen GAA Club in Galway are bridging the gap with older members of the community through the provision of monthly lunch clubs.
To date the club have dished out 260 lunches to residents from the local nursing home Blake Manor, service users of the Brothers of Charity and many residents of the community.
For the past few years, the GAA has worked on empowering clubs by establishing health and wellbeing committees at national, provincial, and county level, while also recommending that all clubs appoint a health and wellbeing officer, GAA Community & Health manager, Colin Regan, explained.
“In 2016 we received requests for support in the aftermath of 38 critical incidents. Members, clubs, and counties were seeking help and advice across a range of different topics including suicide and mental health problems, gambling addiction, and tragic deaths.
“While we will always be there to support our members in the aftermath of a tragedy, we hope that the proactive work of the Healthy Club project can help reduce the number of such incidents.”
Aogán Ó Fearghail, An Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael said: “GAA clubs have always supported the health of their communities. However, with the support of the HSE, the National Office for Suicide Prevention, the PHA, and Irish Life, the Healthy Clubs project is providing GAA members and their communities across the 32 counties with innovative new ways of enhancing their wellbeing on their terms, in their own back yards.”
Commenting on the programme Marcella Corcoran, Minister of State for Health Promotion said: "The challenges facing our population are significant, so we need to have an impact across all of society to improve our collective health and wellbeing. As a national organisation working in every county and community, the GAA is an important partner in creating a healthier Ireland.
“The Healthy Club initiative, supported by Irish Life, is an exemplar of the partnership approach needed under Healthy Ireland. I was delighted to learn about the many initiatives underway at the GAA's recent Health and Wellbeing Conference in Croke Park and I wish them every success with the roadshow being launched today."