Healthy pilot kicks off in Marble City

Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 01:00

A 10-week Healthy Town project aims to improve health and wellbeing in Kilkenny, writes CONOR KANE

FREE HEALTH checks have begun for the people of Kilkenny following last week’s launch of the Healthy Town initiative by The Irish Times and Pfizer Healthcare Ireland. Organisers of the 10-week Healthy Town project, in association with the local civic and business community, are hoping it will spread to other towns and cities next year.

With 39 per cent of adults in Ireland now overweight and 18 per cent classed as obese, and childhood obesity reaching epidemic proportions throughout Europe, the initiative is being taken by The Irish Times and Pfizer as a first step in encouraging communities to work together towards the goal of improving general health and wellbeing.

The health checks will include tests for body mass index (BMI), cholesterol and blood pressure and these are scheduled to take place at various locations around Kilkenny in the coming weeks, beginning today at the Newpark Close Family Resource Centre; tomorrow at the Fr McGrath Resource Centre; and on Saturday, from midday to 5pm, in the Town Hall, High Street, Kilkenny.

In all, it’s hoped that 400-500 will register for the initial health checks and that, by the end of the 10-week process, at least 200 of those will still be involved and can compare their “end results” with those from the beginning of the project.

Events taking place next week include the start of a meet and train group for those considering giving jogging/running a go – with the support of others of like mind – as well as swim coaching, a talk on exercising safely by Aidan Woods, who is the physiotherapist to some of Ireland’s top athletes, fitness walks and a “cycle to school week” with prizes for schoolchildren. Each week thereafter there will be a focus on a variety of themes such as nutrition and healthy eating, fitness, mental health, family activities, health and safety in the home and community, and healthy ageing.

As the editor of The Irish Times, Kevin O’Sullivan, said at the project launch in Kilkenny: “Participating together is a guarantee of solidarity and support for individuals. We have a scheduled event happening every week, with some weeks having more than one activity.”

He said The Irish Times was “hugely committed to health in the broadest sense”, partly through the publication of the HEALTHplus supplement – “one of the most intensively consumed” parts of the newspaper.

Pfizer and The Irish Times share a common goal, he said: “to make ‘good health’ options, in their many different forms, realisable to as many people as possible within their communities. We hope Kilkenny Healthy Town will arouse the interest and participation of the people of Kilkenny . . . given the prize of collective better health and wellbeing, it would be tremendous to get high levels of participation.”

The Mayor of Kilkenny, Cllr Seán Ó hArgáin, has already been leading the way in terms of promoting healthy living. Shortly after assuming the chain of office in June, Cllr Ó hArgáin initiated the “mayor’s walk” every Saturday. This involves a group of people led by the mayor gathering at The Parade in Kilkenny and heading off on what he described as “a brisk walk” through the city’s streets, lanes and alleys.

A veteran of a few marathons himself, Cllr Ó hArgáin said he hoped to “lead by example” in the bid to make Kilkenny a healthy city which was, he said, “one of the objectives” for his year in office. “This 10-week programme is something that everyone can take part in and improve their own health and wellbeing, on their own terms as well as having the support of a programme.”

Pfizer Healthcare Ireland’s chief executive, David Gallagher, said while the company made medicines and vaccines that help people when they’re sick and help prevent them getting sick, it also felt it had “a duty to the community” to help improve health.

“We view health promotion activities such as Kilkenny Healthy Town as crucial in our organisation’s efforts of ‘working together for a healthier world’.”


Visit irishtimes.com/healthytowns

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