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Get Involved in Healthy Clubs

What is the Healthy Club project (HCP) ?

Background

The HCP is a GAA initiative backed by Irish Life and Healthy Ireland. It is focused on improving the health of the nation. The GAA, which reaches into every community on the island of Ireland, has always had a significant role to play in the health of the nation through its promotion of Gaelic Games. The association’s HCP brings a new dimension to this work and capitalises on the key role played by GAA clubs in local communities. The project empowers clubs to deliver health and wellbeing information and programmes directly to their members and to the wider communities that they serve.

Aim

The aim is to ensure that everyone who engages with their GAA club benefits from the experience in a health-enhancing way, be they players, officers, coaches, parents, supporters, or members of their local community.

The intention is that GAA clubs will become hubs for health information and programmes thereby empowering their members and communities to enjoy healthier lifestyles.

The ultimate aim of the project is to involve every GAA club in the country, thus enhancing the long term health of every community in the 32 counties and ensuring a healthier future for everyone.

Benefits and Opportunities for Clubs

Clubs who completed the pilot phases have been awarded and recognised as official “Healthy Clubs” which is completely ground breaking and the first of its kind in Ireland. Waterford IT’s Centre for Health Behavioural Research has endorsed the project’s positive impact on the health orientation and practice of participating clubs.

The following benefits and opportunities provides an evident based rationale on why clubs should get involved:

  • Exclusive access to Healthy Club resources
  • Increase in membership
  • Improvements in the health promoting activities of clubs specifically with club policy, practice and the club environment (both physical and cultural).
  • Opportunity to share learnings and experience with other like – minded clubs
  • Changes in attitudes towards health for the better
  • Better engagement with club activities
  • Opening up funding avenues
  • Better opportunity to link the local community with club activities
  • Sense of achievement
  • Set a positive example
  • Networking opportunities
  • Increase in media coverage both locally and nationally
  • Part of a grounding breaking project, first of its kind in Europe.
  • Recognition by the GAA and the Health Service Executive (approved by Healthy Ireland)

Challenges

As with all new projects, the HCP is not without its challenges. Some of the challenges experienced by clubs included:

  • Club capacity: some clubs found it difficult to recruit personnel for their project teams and at times a lot of work fell onto the shoulders of just one person. The clubs that excelled had an active project team and support from the Club Executive.
  • Resistance: some clubs referred to the “old school mentality” within their clubs which made the project at times a “hard sell”. However, the “small steps” message resonated with clubs and they kept “chipping away” and innovating around how to position this new type of activity within a traditional organisation.
  • Buy in from the club executive committee: some clubs found that without the backing of their club executive committee, it was difficult to carry out some Healthy Club activities.
  • Documentation: some clubs, particularly those with limited team members found the documentation element on the portal a challenge. The process and reporting element has since been refined and simplified to make it as user friendly as possible for volunteers. It is also necessary that some members of the Healthy Club team is familiar with computers to document the clubs progress as the accreditation process is done via the online portal.

Even though clubs met and overcame challenges along the way the positive impact the HCP had on fully committed clubs was ground breaking.

Timeline

The HCP was created in 2013 and has grown from the genesis of an idea for a small pilot into a programme heralded as an exemplar of the Healthy Ireland framework in action. It has also been recognised at European level as offering an exemplar framework for how to utilise the sports clubs setting for the delivery of health promotion (Sports Club for Health, 2016 https://www.scforh.info/).

The HCP has been rolled out in phased cycles (see Table below) to ensure that the model and resources are evaluated and fit for purpose. Further Phases will open on a cyclical basis and interested clubs will be invited to apply via the GAA’s Community and Health website.

Due to capacity Phase 3 will remain a controlled pilot with the aim to open up expressions of interest to all GAA clubs in Ireland in 2020 (Phase 4)

Phase 1- 2013 (Q1) – 2015 (Q3) 18 Clubs (16 completed) Covering 4 provinces

Phase 2- 2016 (Q1) – 2017 (Q3) 60 Clubs (58 completed) At least one club covering 32 counties

Phase 3- 2018 (Q1) – 2019 (Q3) 150 Clubs (at least 3 in each county)

Phase 4- 2020 (Q1 – 2021 (Q3) Aim: Open expressions of interest to all 1,600 GAA clubs (target an additional 150 clubs)

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