The GAA Healthy Club Project (HCP) has resulted in significant and lasting health improvements in communities nationwide, it has been claimed.
The HCP began in 2013 and its aim was to make every GAA club in the country a hub for health - providing members and the wider community with programmes that support physical, emotional and social wellbeing.
To date, almost 60 clubs have delivered 350 initiatives covering topics such as physical activity, mental health, healthy eating, gambling, smoking and bullying.
Now, an independent evaluation by the Centre for Health Behaviour Research at Waterford IT has found that the project has had a lasting and significant impact on communities around the country.
It found that between 60-80% of people who took part felt that these HCP initiatives had a medium to high impact on their health.
So far, over 12,000 people have benefitted from physical activity programmes. The 12-week programme, Men on the Move (MOTM), is one such initiative. Developed and funded by the HSE, it aims to promote physical activity and general wellbeing in men over the age of 30.
HCP participants in this programme recorded an average weight loss of 2kg and a reduction in their waist circumference of 3-4cm. After 26 weeks, they underwent a check-up and had managed to maintain these health improvements.
The men also recorded improvements in their social and emotional wellbeing, such as enhanced self-confidence.
"The Men on The Move programme has created new friendships and left me feeling more positive about myself," one participant said.
Meanwhile, some 1,000 people have engaged with programmes specifically aimed at mental health and emotional wellbeing, while 55% of participating clubs have delivered healthy eating programmes, targeting teenagers in particular.
The GAA is now calling on further clubs to get involved and sign up for the HCP.
"Health and wellbeing is core to what the GAA is all about and the HCP 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, the National Office for Suicide Prevention, the Public Health Agency and Irish Life, for helping to make the HCP the success it is. We look forward to growing the project from 60 to 150 clubs in this new phase," commented GAA president, Aogán Ó Fearghail.
Clubs are encouraged to get involved and enjoy numerous benefits, such as exclusive access to HCP resources, the potential to increase membership and broaden their volunteer base, 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 this latest phase of the Healthy Club Project by completing the online form on here. The closing date is Monday, January 29.
*Pictured are Healthy Club ambassadors, Waterford hurler, Jamie Barron, Dublin Ladies footballer, Lyndsey Davey and Mayo footballer, Diarmuid O'Connor