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Simon Harris

Simon Harris

GAA Healthy Club Project - Transforming Ireland's health


The Healthy Club project aims to transform GAA clubs into health-enhancing hubs for their communities

With flagship Healthy Clubs now in every county of Ireland, the GAA is calling on more clubs to get involved

So far, over 12,000 people have benefitted from physical activity programmes and 50% of Healthy Clubs are now smoke-free zones

1,000 people engaged with mental health and emotional wellbeing programmes

Over half (55%) of Healthy Clubs delivered healthy eating programmes targeting teenagers in particular

An independent evaluation by the Centre for Health Behaviour Research, Waterford IT, has revealed that the GAA Healthy Club Project (HCP) is showing significant and lasting improvements to the health of communities across Ireland. Stemming from this, the Healthy Club Project is calling on further clubs to make the GAA a healthier place for everyone to enjoy by signing up to this transformative initiative.

Back row, Irish Life CEO, David Harney (l) and Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail. Front row, (l to r) Waterford hurler Jamie Barron, Dublin ladies footballer Lyndsey Davey, and Mayo footballer Diarmuid O'Connor.
Back row, Irish Life CEO, David Harney (l) and Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail. Front row, (l to r) Waterford hurler Jamie Barron, Dublin ladies footballer Lyndsey Davey, and Mayo footballer Diarmuid O'Connor.

The HCP began in 2013, in partnership with Healthy Ireland, HSE, National Office for Suicide Prevention, and kindly supported by Irish Life. Its aim is to make every GAA club in Ireland a hub for health, capable of providing their members and communities with programmes that support their physical, emotional, and social wellbeing.

As part of the HCP to date, 58 clubs have delivered 350 initiatives covering: physical activity, healthy eating, mental fitness, gambling, alcohol and drug education, training and personal development, anti-bullying, anti-smoking and community development. The evaluation by Waterford IT revealed that approximately 60-80%1 of these initiatives were having a medium to high impact on members’ health.

Launching the next stage of the HCP, Minister for Health Simon Harris said: "Congratulations to the GAA clubs that have already taken part in the Healthy Club Project. You are leading the charge and have already made a hugely positive contribution to the communities you serve.

Mayo footballer Diarmuid O'Connor pictured at the launch of the latest phase of the Health Club Project in Croke Park.
Mayo footballer Diarmuid O'Connor pictured at the launch of the latest phase of the Health Club Project in Croke Park.

The Government recently launched the Healthy Ireland 2018 campaign by which we want to encourage people to make positive choices to improve their physical and mental health. These positive choices are based around three key areas - eating more healthily, being more active, and minding our mental wellbeing. The Healthy Club Project is a great example of one of our key sporting organisations working in partnership with the health sector to help people achieve these positive changes."

Aogán Ó Fearghail, An Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael said: “Health and wellbeing is core to what the GAA is all about and the Healthy Club Project aims to build on this by making our clubs hubs for health that everyone can experience and enjoy. 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 the project from 60 to 150 clubs in this new phase.”

There are numerous examples of the positive impact the HCP is having within communities across Ireland, one such example is the “Men on the Move” (MOTM) programme. MOTM is a 12-week programme, developed and funded by the HSE, aiming to promote physical activity and general wellbeing among men over the age of 30.

Dublin footballer, Lyndsey Davey, pictured at the launch of the latest phase of the Health Club Project in Croke Park.
Dublin footballer, Lyndsey Davey, pictured at the launch of the latest phase of the Health Club Project in Croke Park.

The 12 week results of the Healthy Club participants showed an average weight loss of 2kg, and an average waist circumference drop of 3-4 cm, maintained at the 26-week check. There was also a one-minute improvement in the time to complete one mile. 

Participants also recorded improvements to their social and emotional wellbeing. The programme brought men together and provided them with the opportunity to exercise at their own pace, while developing new friendships. Some of the personal experiences reported by the men include: enhanced confidence, communication and self- care. Direct quotes include: “The Men on The Move programme has created new friendships and left me feeling more positive about myself” and “I looked forward to the sessions to switch off and have a bit of craic with the lads after a tough day at work”. For at least one man, the programme has been “simply life changing”.

Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne noted that many individuals and organisations are now consciously adopting more healthy lifestyles and paid tribute to the GAA's role in this: "These welcome developments in society are taking place alongside the well established traditions of healthy and positive lifestyles that the GAA has long promoted in its proud history.  Against that background I would like to acknowledge the level of commitment demonstrated by volunteers in the GAA Clubs who are actively promoting health and wellbeing and leading the way for other sporting organisations."

Waterford hurler Jamie Barron pictured at the launch of the latest phase of the Healthy Club Project in Croke Park.
Waterford hurler Jamie Barron pictured at the launch of the latest phase of the Healthy Club Project in Croke Park.

Speaking about Irish Life’s support for the Healthy Club Project, David Harney, CEO, Irish Life said: “The Healthy Club Project is a natural fit with Irish Life’s vision – we want to help people build better futures. Since 1884, the GAA has been Irelands largest sporting organisation and with almost the same number of GAA clubs as GPs across Ireland, the HCP is the ideal forum through which to deliver health messages, and initiatives. There is a natural synergy between Irish Life and the Healthy Club Project and we’re delighted to continue to support such an important initiative.”

Highlighting the 32 county nature of the HCP, Liz Redmond, Population Health Director, Department of Health, NI said: "The GAA already plays a pivotal role in the lives of 750,000 people across this island, making the Healthy Club Project an initiative with far-reaching implications for communities. This programme has the scope to positively impact communities north and south, and is a shining example of the type of partnership approach we need to support people’s health and wellbeing.”

Clubs are encouraged to get involved and enjoy the numerous benefits, including exclusive access to Healthy Club resources, the potential to increase membership and broaden the volunteer base, better community engagement with club activities, improvements in health promoting activities, improved goodwill for the club, and opening up funding avenues, all the while enhancing the health of the nation.

Clubs can apply to participate in the Healthy Club Project by completing the online form on www.gaa.ie/community The closing date is Monday, January 29th.



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