The Irish Life GAA Healthy Club Programme is delivering health and wellbeing benefits worth €50M to Ireland, according to the findings of an independent Social Return on Investment (SROI) evaluation conducted by Just Economics.
The research highlights that €19 of value is generated for every €1 of financial, volunteer, and in-kind investment in the Irish Life GAA Healthy Club Programme (or a return ratio of 19:1). Results show significant health and wellbeing gains for participants, including:
• increases in physical activity (10-25%)
• adopting of healthier behaviours (40%)
• starting new hobbies (17%) and friendships (51%)
• improvements in life satisfaction, connectedness to other people and the community
The Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme supports GAA clubs in becoming hubs for health by delivering to their members and community opportunities that reflect the national policy agenda for sport, physical activity, mental health, and preventative health. It began in 2013 as a pilot involving 16 clubs and engaged 447 clubs by 2023. It is supported by Irish Life (proud partners since 2015), as well as Healthy Ireland, the HSE, National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), and the Tomar Trust.
In 2021, the GAA commissioned Just Economics to carry out a SROI analysis of the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme. The evaluation followed a mixed-methods study design based on the SROI framework. SROI is a methodology that compares the social, economic, and environmental value of a programme with its cost to estimate the social return. In 2022/23 the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme engaged 447 clubs and involved 1,912 volunteers who contributed 102,292 hours annually, valued at €1.1m using the 2022 minimum wage. These volunteers organised 2,389 activities accessed 184,598 times by 92,299 individuals. Activities are spread across six areas: physical activity (44%), community development (24%), diversity and inclusion (9%), mental fitness (10%), healthy eating (7%), substance use/gambling awareness (6%).
The evaluation inferred benefits of €620,000 to our health services from changes in the service use because of individuals’ participation in the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme. For the HSE/NOSP, which contributes €140,000 of funding, the return from these savings is 4.4:1.
The Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme also brings a range of benefits to the GAA and clubs participating in the programme, including greater involvement by participants (joining their club, taking their children to training or attending games), recruiting new members and volunteers, and improved reputation/goodwill. Demographic data shows that the programme engages an equal mix of men and women and is attracting participation from outside the GAA core base.
Participating clubs reported:
• beneficial changes in policies and procedures such as smoke and vape free venue.
• healthy eating at training and after games.
• increases in the proportion of clubs that consider their club to be welcoming, representative of the community and well-utilised.
• Some improvement in the ease at which volunteers are recruited/retained (although both remain a challenge).
For volunteers, 89% were satisfied with their volunteering experience and there was an indicated increase in life satisfaction. They also report higher levels of community connectedness and connection to other people than at baseline. 25% of volunteers had no previous involvement with the GAA and many started out as participants, suggesting that the programme is operating as a gateway for new volunteers. Dr. Eilis Lawlor of Just Economics noted that “What the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme shows is that the right activities, targeted in the right way, can get people taking part in physical activity that is so important for their health and wellbeing.”
Recommendations within the report include increased funding and scaling up of the HCP, with targeted support to enable the programme target more minority groups including BAME communities (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnicities).
The Irish Life GAA Healthy Club Programme is emblematic of the direction of travel for the GAA in 21st century Ireland. It aims to be an inclusive, progressive, and dynamic programme that builds social capital and changes health and wellbeing behaviours by starting where people are at.
An Uachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, Larry McCarthy, said:
"The results of this independent research into the impact of our Healthy Club Programme is a positive reinforcement of the value that we have long known was provided by our clubs to our communities.
"It is an evidence-based endorsement of the work done by our Community and Health Department and I want to acknowledge the support we receive from Irish Life, Healthy Ireland, the HSE, the National Office for Suicide Prevention and the Tomar Trust."
Declan Bolger, CEO, Irish Life said:
“Irish Life is proud to be celebrating 10 years of the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs partnership and the incredible impact this programme has achieved during this time. At Irish Life, we help people build better futures and through our partnership with the GAA Healthy Clubs we know that the entire community benefits from being involved with skills, information and guidance on how to improve health. Now more than ever, small changes can have a big impact on health, whether that is making healthier food choices or taking more steps each day – everything helps.
Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs supports people across our communities make small change in more ways than one, it brings communities together to improve not only their physical health, but also their social and emotional health.
For the 10th anniversary of the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs, we look forward to encouraging more clubs and participants to join the steps challenge on MyLife this January and make a healthier start to 2024.”
Matthew Doyle, Head of Healthy Ireland, commented:
“we are very proud to support the Irish Life GAA Healthy Club Programme as it is an example of Healthy Ireland in action at community level. This research is to be welcomed as it clearly demonstrates the benefits of investing in health and wellbeing which is our core business in Healthy Ireland”
The GAA is currently welcoming expressions of interest to join the next phase of the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs programme from clubs across the family of Gaelic Games. Interested clubs must complete this form https://healthyclubs.gaa.ie/ . You will receive a subsequent application form which must be completed, signed by your club secretary, and submitted by January 5, 2024.
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