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Aoife O'Brien (GAA Health and Community Department) accepts the award for the best CSR initiative in Irish sport at the 2016 Irish Sports Industry Awards on behalf of the GAA Healthy Club Project in partnership with Irish Life.
Aoife O'Brien (GAA Health and Community Department) accepts the award for the best CSR initiative in Irish sport at the 2016 Irish Sports Industry Awards on behalf of the GAA Healthy Club Project in partnership with Irish Life.

GAA Healthy Club Project Collects More Honours

The Healthy Clubs project is a key element of the GAA’s growing work in the area of health and wellbeing and its success has been acknowledged at the 2016 Irish Sports Industry Awards. The flagship project in partnership with Irish Life, was awarded best Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative in Irish sport last Thursday evening.

The GAA Healthy Club project was created to support clubs all over Ireland and beyond in responding to, supporting, and shaping the health and wellbeing of their members and the communities they serve. It involves a unique public-private partnership involving the Irish health sector (Health Service Executive/National Office for Suicide Prevention), the Public Health Agency (NI) and Irish Life.

James Galvin, CEO of the Irish Federation of Sport acknowledged “the positive impact on a community from a club or facility reaching out beyond its traditional audience” when commenting on the Project's success at the Irish Sports Industry Awards.

The independent evaluation of Phase 1 (16 club across the 4 provinces) strongly endorses the partnership approach to addressing health and wellbeing at community level as well as the volunteer-driven implementation model utilised by the clubs themselves (See evaluation report by Waterford IT below). Enthused by the concrete evidence, Irish Life announced in January 2015 a €1 million CSR investment to support the project in achieving its goals over three years.

Phase 2 commenced in February 2016 and has grown from 16 clubs to 60 clubs, at least one from each county representing the full spectrum of GAA club life (click here to see full list of participating clubs or view in download list below)

The impact of the selected Healthy Clubs at community level is already being noticed and some examples include:

  • Their drive to become smoke-free campuses drawing considerable media attention and health-sector praise
  • Support of the HSE’s #littlethings emotional wellbeing campaign
  • Recipes for Success healthy eating programme, in partnership with St Angela’s College Sligo, has been delivered in 26 of the participating clubs to date. Many non-participating Healthy Clubs are already signing up to get involved (see video here)
  • The evaluation of the award winning ‘Cork Beats Stress’ (Stress Control) programme (a partnership between HSE Primary Care services, Psychological Services Cork and GAA Healthy Clubs, Midleton and St. Finbarr’s) has revealed a significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress as well as a significant increase in perceived quality of life as a result of course participation. This course is now being replicated in other clubs and settings in Cork.
  • Laois Healthy Club, Clonad, inspired 10 other local clubs, including one soccer and rugby club and one community group, to replicate their new critical incident response plan, with the Laois Local Sports Partnership honouring all clubs at a special event on World Mental Health Day, October 10, 2016.

The Healthy Club project is also being acknowledged across Europe and has been selected for the EU Commission-backed Sports Clubs for Health programme. It aims to use best-practice models to inspire other sporting associations and will be launched in Brussels in April 2017.

As well as this, two participating Healthy Clubs, Castleblayney Faughs, Monaghan and St Peter’s Warrenpoint, Down presented at a European wide HEPA (Health Enhancing Physical Activity) Conference in Queens University, Belfast which has subsequently led to a documentary about the project with BBC Scotland (filming November 2016).

Irish Life deserve great credit for their involvement in the Healthy Club project as a true CSR initiative. A Health and Wellbeing Co-Ordinator has been appointed in Irish Life to replicate the Healthy Club model in their workplace setting. The company was recognised by Uachtarán CLG, Aogán Ó Fearghail, as an ‘honorary’ Healthy Club at the launch of Irish Life’s Wellbeing month, October 2016. Dublin’s Philly McMahon and Sam Maguire were special guests, two days after the Dubs' GAA Football All-Ireland Final Replay victory.

Employees at Irish life are provided with a variety of activities and social events throughout the year which help create a feeling of team spirit and camaraderie, enhancing morale and personal development. On 10 September 2016, over 300 Irish Life employees participated in Hell and Back and raised a staggering €110,000 for the two Irish Life staff charities.

For more details on the GAA’s work in the space of Community as well as Health and Wellbeing, visit gaa.ie/community

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