GAA Healthy Clubs receive national recognition 2017-11-10 07:00:00

Four Cork GAA clubs amongst the first official GAA Healthy Clubs to receive national recognition

  
A special ceremony with governmental representation in Croke Park last weekend saw 58 GAA clubs recognised as the first official ‘Healthy Clubs’ on the island of Ireland.

Four Cork GAA clubs, including, Midleton, Castlehaven, Killeagh and St Finbarrs can now proudly fly a flag above their grounds (endorsed by both Healthy Ireland and the Public Health Agency in NI), letting their members and communities know that they value health and wellbeing as much as leagues and championships.

In January 2016, almost 100 clubs applied to participate in Phase 2 of the project (just 16 participated in Phase 1 between 2013-2015). Many cited the dearth of services in their communities that are tackling issues such as obesity, sedentary lifestyles, mental health and suicide. They wanted to be part of the solution.   
Clubs engage with their members and community before identifying health themes upon which to focus on. Most common include healthy eating; physical activity for non-playing members; emotional wellbeing; engaging older members of the community; youth development; smoke free clubs; gambling, drug, and alcohol education; and inclusion and integration.

These four progressive GAA clubs are the first in Cork to receive national recognition. Their various health and wellbeing initiatives have had a tremendous impact on their clubs and wider communities. The “Cork Beats Stress” programme in Midleton GAA and St Finbarr’s National Hurling & Football Club benefited over 300 people during the initial six week programme. Facilitated by a qualified HSE psychologist the programme equipped participants with the skills needed to cope with stress and provided participants with take home booklets on stress management. The programme resulted in a significant reduction in stress and anxiety levels amongst participants, and inspired St. Finbarr’s to continue running SafeTALK, ‘'suicide alertness for everyone’ workshops in the community. The stress control programme has also been replicated in other Cork GAA clubs, including Castlehaven and Yoghal.

Castlehaven GAA hosts the weekly Park Run in Rineen Forest Recreation Area in partnership with Coillte and Parkrun Ireland. It is a free 5km timed run open to all members of the community. The Castlehaven GAA parkrun club is one of the biggest clubs in Ireland with over 80 members and average attendance of 46 people. To date over 2,500 5km runs have been recorded.

Killeagh GAA club is the picture of health every Saturday morning at the Monster Blitzes where children (under 8s and under 10s) are given fruit and water, much to their delight. Last year the club decided to replace the biscuits and usual rubbish with healthier options and surprisingly the children bought in on the idea and begun requesting the fruit first. The club wanted to educate teenagers and parents about the importance of health eating, as well as the younger children. The Recipes for Success programme, a practical and educational nutritional workshop aimed at enhancing performance, was carried out in the local secondary school and facilitated by the Home Economics teacher. Twelve teenagers attended and learned how to make easy performance enhancing meals and snacks. The participants really enjoyed the session and arranged subsequent workshops since in partnership with the school. Healthy food demonstrations have also been hosted in the club with over 80 people attending from the community.

Former Tyrone football captain Seán Cavanagh is a big supporter of the GAA’s Healthy Club Project (HCP) and presented the clubs with their official flag and plaque in Croke Park on Saturday, November 4th. He said “I’ve seen myself how the GAA brings communities together in so many different ways so it’s fantastic to see the association taking a leadership role in developing healthier communities. The Healthy Clubs around the country are having a positive impact on so many children and young people and as a parent I think it is fantastic. Through this project I think people will start to appreciate the role of the GAA in our communities even more.”

The innovative Healthy Club model was developed in partnership with Healthy Ireland, the HSE’s health promotion division, the National Office for Suicide Prevention, and is supported by Irish Life through a CSR investment. In an era of unprecedented societal health challenges, the Healthy Club Project aims to harness the potential of the GAA club setting to deliver evidence-based health promotion information and interventions, backed up by appropriate policies and partnerships. Its potential to be replicated by other sports is currently being explored by a working group involving the FAI, IRFU, and Athletics Ireland.
Similar work is being undertaken across European sports associations, and for the past three years the GAA has contributed its learnings to the EU-wide Sports Clubs for Health project. This culminated with the GAA’s Community & Health manager, Colin Regan, presenting on the Healthy Club project to a sub-committee of the EU Parliament in Brussels in April.

The Healthy Clubs project is being independently evaluated by a team from Waterford IT’s Centre for Health Behaviour Research. While the final report into Phase 2 won’t be available until December, the research team have already noted significant successes (see editor’s notes for examples of successful interventions).

Aogán Ó Fearghail, An Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael said, “The 58 Healthy Clubs recognised today have gone above and beyond what is normally expected of a sports club. Health and wellbeing is core to what the GAA is all about and these clubs help bring that to life. I’d like to thank our partners, Healthy Ireland, the HSE, National Office for Suicide Prevention, the Public Health Agency, and Irish Life, for helping to make the Healthy Club project the success it is. We look forward to growing it from strength to strength.”

Recognising the achievements of the clubs in Croke Park at the Healthy Club Recognition Event is Catherine Byrne, Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Department of Health (ROI). She said, "Today is all about recognition for the clubs and the volunteers who make this happen at club level. I would like to congratulate all of the clubs and volunteers involved and acknowledge the contribution that they are all making to bring the vision for Healthy Ireland to life: where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing to their full potential"

David Harney, CEO, Irish Life said, “Irish Life are delighted to work with the GAA on the Healthy Club initiative. The GAA, reaches into every community on the island of Ireland, and has a significant role to play in the health of the nation through its promotion of Gaelic Games. The association’s Healthy Club initiative brings a new dimension to this work. It enables people to access health in an exciting new way. We believe this work has the potential to improve the future health of communities across the country.”

There are numerous benefits to clubs that take part in the GAA HCP including exclusive access to Healthy Club resources and support. The independent evaluation by Waterford IT’s Centre for Health Behaviour Research of Phase 1 of the HCP revealed its potential to increase membership, improvements in health promoting activities, better opportunity to link the local community with club activities and opening up new funding avenues all the while enhancing the health of the nation and ensuring a healthier future for everyone.

The GAA hope to extend the project to 150 clubs in Phase 3 (with expressions of interest to open in early 2018) before opening the project to all interested clubs in 2020. There are 1,600 clubs in Ireland and over 400 abroad.
For more information, visit: www.gaa.ie/community  
Follow: @officialgaa or Like: www.facebook.com/officialgaa/ #gaahealth
 
Killeagh GAA Club, Co Cork Case Study
‘Raising Awareness about Healthy Eating’
Killeagh GAA club adopted the GAA’s Healthy Eating Guidelines last year and continue to make great progress raising awareness and promoting healthy living through a range of healthy eating demonstrations, workshops and talks. The initiative has impacted on the entire club and beyond from juveniles, to minor squads and the wider community. 

The Monster Blitzes (Under 8s and Under 10s) on a Saturday morning, where up to 40 teams can participate, were targeted first. The biscuits and usual rubbish were replaced with fruit and water and surprisingly the children bought in on the idea and begun requesting the fruit first. In addition, 220 boys and girls (Under 6 to Under 13) enjoyed the healthier options at the club’s Cúl Camp in the summer.

The Healthy Club project team wanted to reach teenage players as they felt this age group would benefit from education on healthy eating, especially at such a crucial time in their lives, when they are leaving home and starting out in college. The club signed up to the GAA’s Recipes for Success programme, a practical and educational nutritional workshop aimed at enhancing performance. This was carried out in the local secondary school and facilitated by the Home Economics teacher. Twelve teenagers attended the initial practical workshop and learned how to make easy performance enhancing meals and snacks. The participants really enjoyed the session and were delighted to receive the Recipes for Success booklet which contains several delicious recipes with pre/post match day meal plans. Due to the success of the programme the club have arranged subsequent sessions in partnership with the school.

The club organised a Healthy Food Demonstration and Workshop on October 7th which was open to all in the community and approximately 80 people attended. It consisted of 5 different food stations manned by volunteers from the club, providing samples of food from the Recipes for Success booklet, as well as porridge, fruit, smoothies, tray bakes, hummus, etc. Organisers of ongoing activities in the club (club meetings, Féile days, Parish Leagues, AGMs, etc.) are also encouraged to introduce fruit and water either as the exclusive food source or an alternative to the usual tea / coffee / cakes / snacks throughout the year with little objection.

Due to Killeagh’s emphasis on healthy eating and the provision of healthier options for players and visitors, more people are using Páirc Uí Chinnéide. Visiting parents have commented at the underage blitzes that all clubs should be doing this (providing fruit) and they would be returning to their own club asking them to do the same for their events. Club Health and Wellbeing Officer, Coleman Motherway says that “it is difficult to measure the impact as it may take years to change the culture around healthy eating.  However, the first seeds are being sown and there has been a very positive response”
 
Midleton GAA and St Finbarr’s National Hurling & Football Club, Co Cork Case Study
‘Cork Beats Stress’
Midleton GAA club partnered up with the HSE south and St. Finbarr’s GAA club, another participating Healthy Club in Cork, to deliver a programme called ‘Cork Beats Stress’. The programme consisted of a workshop one night a week for six weeks. Facilitated by a qualified HSE psychologist the programme equipped participants with the skills needed to cope with stress and provided participants with take home booklets on stress management. It was open to all members of the public over 18 years of age and was free. Over the six weeks attendance fluctuated from week to week, however, on average 161 people attended in Midleton GAA and 167 in St. Finbarr’s National Hurling and Football club; 25% of programme participants were male.

Findings from the HSE’s evaluation of the programme clearly show that participation in this initiative resulted in a clinically significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress.  Gains were made regardless of the severity of symptoms.

Running this public health service through the GAA contributed to a reduction in stigma and a normalisation of mental health problems and of help seeking behaviour. This helped reduce barriers which might prevent someone from availing of assistance.  The delivery of this mental health initiative through the GAA was associated with more positive connotations, a greater perception that it was local, community based and a service which involved people from all walks of life and which led to great male participation.

This initiative was recently awarded the prestigious HMI award which is given to recognise outstanding achievements of individuals and teams which exemplify innovation, creativity and commitment of people delivering health services. The Cork Beats Stress was selected as joint overall National winner out of 149 others. 

Following on from this success St Finbarrs Healthy Club Team have co-ordinated two SafeTALK training workshops in the club. SafeTALK, which stands for 'suicide alertness for everyone' is a training programme that helps people to identity those who may be having thoughts of suicide and teaches ways of helping those people by connecting them with suicide first aid  resources. This programme is run by the National Office for Suicide Prevention in line with LivingWorks and the HSE.  It involves a 3 hour course which was open to anyone in the club and the wider community over the age of 16. Between the two courses the club had over 40 people take part. The participants were made up of club members including players and coaches, parents and members of the wider community.

Castlehaven GAA, Co. Cork Case study:
Park Run 
Castlehaven GAA coordinate Parkrun every Saturday morning, which is a free 5km timed run open to all members of the community. Parkrun is a free 5km timed run open to all members of the community. Castlehaven GAA have hosted almost 100 parkrun’s in Rineen Forest Recreation Area thanks to the clubs partnership with Coillte and parkrun Ireland. The Castlehaven GAA Parkrun club is one of the biggest clubs in Ireland with over 80 members and average attendance of 46 people. To date over 2,500 5km runs have been recorded, over 450 people have registered the Castlehaven parkrun as their home run and 513 different runners have completed the course. It wouldn’t be possible without the 68 different volunteers who have volunteered over 500 times. Due to popular demand Castlehaven GAA now to have an additional weekly running/walking session at Moneyvollahane pitch every Wednesday evening.







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