Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 7.07.49 a.m.

Today we begin an eight part series looking at the eight Action Areas identified in the National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland.

The eight areas have been given 60 items on which progress will be measured and monitored so as to drive at a 1% annual increase in people meeting the national recommended physical activity guideline of 60 minutes for children and 30 minutes a day for adults, and to reduce by 0.5% a year the numbers of sedentary people who do not take any physical activity.  The eight areas are:

Public awareness, education and communication is a broad remit for targeting every adult and child.  This will have to be about more than television and print advertising that would suck up significant budget spend and take time to get the message home.

The reality is though that in public health and safety there is evidence that such expensive campaigns do have an impact.  In Ireland the series of ads featuring Gerry Collins, the 57 year old father who was filmed with his family before he died, talking about what he would miss in life, was credited at having persuaded 60,000 people to try to quit smoking in 2015. The ads are running again now and are a powerful reminder of the self inflicted danger that smoking causes.

Targeted

The issue with physical activity though is that the message is challenging to make as relevant.  The anti smoking ads come off a platform of forty years of serious awareness that smoking is a killer.  It is also targeted at a small section of the population.

The benefit of physical activity in health terms is a longer term one, and requires a commitment that takes time, sweat and is ongoing.

The Plan talks of inspiring people to adopt active lifestyles and that will involve promoting positive change as opposed to the threat of danger that has been the central point of driver safety and smoking campaigns.

Good news is less impactful than bad news and that will make the challenge for advertising much harder to address.

The report states that “a combination of approaches, supported by community based activities and sustained over time, is most effective in building health literacy and promoting positive community engagement.”

ThisGirlCan-1024x621Specific campaigns encouraging different groups to be more aware of the benefit of movement will be key.  Sport for Business through it’s Women’s Sport Group is working on the feasibility of bringing a campaign based on the work of Sport England in introducing the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign to Ireland.  That was a broad based inspirational campaign aimed at getting women active and breaking down some of the blocks to better behaviour that had built up through negative stereotyping.

It featured real women in environments that were far from the ‘body beautiful’ images of traditional advertising and evidence from the campaign is suggesting there has been a significant improvement in the behaviour of women between 14 and 45 where the campaign was targeted.

Getting people moving will also likely require partnerships, an area we will return to later in the series.

The Active flag programme in schools is an area that has been identified to make a real impact on the youngest members of society, where the impact will be felt the most.

 Kaiser Chiefs’ frontman and The Voice judge Ricky Wilson takes part in a 10 Minute Shake Up game with children (left to right) Fatima Johura, Rejwan Ahmed, Eljon Sefedini and Sawdha Alam, all aged 9 years, at Marion Richardson Primary School in London to launch this summer’s Change4Life and Disney 10 Minute Shake Up campaign. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 1, 2015. The campaign aims to encourage children to do 10 minute bursts of moderate to vigorous activity, inspired by Disney characters, throughout the day – and every day – in order to reach the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity children need. Photo credit should read: Matt Alexander/PA Wire

Again in the UK Change4Life have partnered with Disney to support a major ‘shake up’ campaign of movement based around teams of characters with elements of gamification that has been running for two years now.  Schools sign up for packs which include interactive videos fronted by Kaiser Chiefs singer Ricky Wilson and which encourage dance and movement as opposed to more formal sport as a means of getting active.

This is aimed at primary level schools where you can imagine it being most effective.  Changing behaviour and perception there will be critical to reversing the national trend where only 12% of secondary level school children are getting the minimum base of activity and a staggering 34% are getting none.

This is the stand out area where change is needed most and that will have to be done through the schools and education system.  We will address that tomorrow looking at the second action area of children and young people.

There are seven area in which the plan has identified work to be done all of which which have an immediate target of delivery.

Communication

Developing a there year communication strategy including the development of print, online and social media resources is the first.  This will give rise to an annual evidence based physical activity promotion campaign.  As outlined above this is a ten year campaign so care should be taken not to try and address every group in year one with a message that is too broad to be effective with any of them.

The third item is to develop the GetIrelandActive.ie website as a one-stop shop for information on facilities and activities to get healthy.  It has made a good start and with a skeleton in place can be developed quickly to provide information.  The key will be in terms of making it usable and searchable in as easy a fashion as possible, and then to make it sharable through social media.

Gathering together the many community based activities under a single umbrella will not be easy but neither will it be impossible.  Getting this right will deliver the fifth action post of a national recreation facilities and activity directory.

The most focused and measurable action point is to develop an annual National Week of Physical Activity linked with the European Week of Sport in September.  This has been assigned with primary responsibility to Sport Ireland and can be built on the start made in 2015 through initiatives like the Great Dublin Bike Ride.

The final action point, not given a specific timeline is to raise awareness among schools of opportunities to educate through physical activity.  That will be central to tomorrows look at the action area targeting children and young people.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 7.51.59 a.m.