HSE and Cara Sport Inclusion Ireland launch ‘Active Healthy Me’
“If you want to exercise, regardless of what your body looks like, whether you have an impairment or not, that is your right, you should be able to do that.”
(Sarah, Cara Survey Respondent)
On Thursday, 1st December 2022, the HSE in collaboration with Cara Sport Inclusion Ireland, supported by Sport Ireland, launched an exciting health, wellbeing and physical activity programme called ‘Active Healthy Me’.
‘Active Healthy Me’ aims to increase the knowledge and understanding of people with disabilities on the importance and benefits of being physically active, how to live a healthy lifestyle and the opportunities that are available to participate in sport and physical activity within their local community.
The programme was created for people with disabilities in adult day service locations to take control of their health and wellbeing by educating them on the value of good nutrition and hydration, the importance and benefits of physical activity and how they can be active in their local community. The programme also aims to enhance the engagement between disability day service locations, service users and their local sports partnership in connecting them to the local participation opportunities and supports that are available.
This eLearning programme has been developed to enable staff in adult disability day services, support the users of service to become more aware of and experience the health benefits of being more physically active. There are approx. 6,000 frontline staff in adult disability day services supporting 20,000 adults. It will be possible for all frontline staff to access the programme and use it in the 1,000 day service locations throughout the country that provide supports to adults with disabilities.
The inclusive and interactive programme aims to support adults with disabilities attending day services to develop a positive attitude and greater capacity to engage in regular health enhancing activity. It will also encourage day service providers to further build on the positive culture of health and wellbeing that is evident in the disability day service sector.
Welcoming the launch of the ‘Active Healthy Me’ programme, Sarah O’Brien, HSE Health and Wellbeing, Healthy Eating Active Living Programme commented: “Physical activity plays such an important role in peoples’ lives, contributing positively to their physical, mental and social wellbeing. However research tells us that people with disabilities continue to be less likely to participate in physical activity and are more likely to be sedentary than people without a disability.
“Providing an opportunity for people with disabilities to learn about the health benefits of physical activity as well as experiencing it for themselves within day services and in the communities they live in is an important part of changing this picture. We are delighted to have worked with Cara and a number of service providers and people with disabilities to provide this exciting and interactive programme”.
The programme was developed, tested and refined with involvement and feedback from people living with disabilities attending over 18 different day services across the country. The overall feedback from participants so far has been very positive.
Niamh Daffy, CEO, CARA explained: “Everyone, no matter their background or circumstances, should have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of being physically active. We are delighted to be partnering with the HSE Health and Wellbeing, Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme and National Change Planning and Delivery – Disabilities to bring a physical activity awareness and education programme directly to adults with disabilities within all adult day service locations across Ireland.
I believe through this programme, we can collectively generate a movement to greater awareness and access for people with disabilities to lead active and healthy lifestyles through participation in a range of physical activity opportunities.”
In a recent survey coordinated by Cara, over 200 people with disabilities shared their experiences, challenges and needs in respect to leading an active and healthy lifestyle.
- Over 80% strongly agree that physical activity is a priority
- Less than 20% agree that physical activity is accessible
- 70% said they experience challenges to being active with almost half of these reporting these challenges as having a large effect on their lives
- Over 70% feel organisations do not do enough to support people with disabilities to be physically active.
People with a disability in Ireland are far less likely to be active than those without a disability with a difference of 27% vs 49% engaging in some form of physical activity. This participation gap stems from the increased barriers to physical activity experienced by people with disabilities.
Opportunities should be provided for all people with disabilities, irrespective of the nature/degree of their disability. People with disabilities should have choice in relation to activities, and the setting in which they take place as well as having access to lifelong participation opportunities.
Speaking at the launch, Brian Higgins, HSE Assistant National Director: Change Planning and Delivery – Disability and Mental Health Services said: “Over the past number of years there have been many positive developments in services for adults with disabilities. The HSE New Directions Policy, which guides how we provide day service supports for adults with disabilities is comprised of 12 Supports that all day service users can avail of. One of these supports is Support for Health and Wellbeing.
The expected outcome for service users that receive this support is that they have access to appropriate health care, both primary and specialist, in line with their identified needs and where possible, people are empowered to be responsible for their personal health.
The ‘Active Healthy Me’ programme is a perfect fit to assist in delivering this outcome for adults with disabilities that are in receipt of disability day service supports. One of the positive outcomes from COVID-19 has been a stronger focus on health and wellbeing in adult day services so it is very timely to have this additional tool ‘Active Healthy Me’ available to further enhance and strengthen the focus on the importance of physical activity for better health and wellbeing.”
Welcoming the initiative, Anne Rabbitte, TD. Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth at the Department of Health, said: “In conjunction with International Day for Persons with Disabilities, I’m delighted to support the launch of the Active Healthy Me Programme which is a great example of a collaborative approach to programme development and delivery.
“It’s fantastic to hear how people with disabilities and organisations who support people with disabilities were involved from the inception of the design right through to launch and I believe that this programme will be a much-welcomed resource across all adult disability day service locations throughout Ireland enabling more people with disabilities to enjoy the many benefits associated with being physically active.”
Following the launch, opportunities to engage in the ‘Active Healthy Me’ programme will be promoted across all adult disability day service locations. Cara look forward to supporting all services in the delivery of this programme in 2023.
For more information on ‘Active Healthy Me’ and to register your service’s interest go the the ‘Active Healthy Me’ page here, or please contact Maria O’Sullivan, Health and Wellbeing Education Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Quotes about ‘Active Healthy Me’
“I really liked the exercise sessions in the active healthy me program I liked them because they didn’t require any equipment to do the exercises and this reminded me that you don’t necessarily need any equipment to participate in exercise or physical activity.” (Service User Participant of Active Healthy Me Pilot)
“Exercise, it’s a human thing. If you want to exercise, regardless of what your body looks like, whether you have an impairment or not, that is your right, you should be able to do that without these extra barriers in your way” (Sarah, Cara Survey Respondent)
“We found out through delivering this programme that a majority of the participants were interested in Aqua Aerobics, therefore we all did some research into a class that was local and have now been attending same on a weekly basis.” (Service Staff Facilitator of Active Healthy Me Pilot)
“They were all encouraging each other to bring in healthy lunches and drink more water. We were also encouraging our participants to try new vegetables and everyone loved doing this at home and coming in telling others what they tried.” (Service Staff Facilitator of Active Healthy Me Pilot)
** Quotes above are from direct consultation Cara conducted with people with disabilities in 2022 and survey feedback collected from service staff and service users who participated in the Active Healthy Me pilot programme.