Healthy Town: Wexford Town takes up the health challenge
The 2018 Pfizer Healthy Town is gearing up for autumn with a programme of events aimed at helping residents improve their physical and mental wellbeing
From left: Angie Laffan, Wexford County Council; Cllr George Lawlor, Wexford deputy mayor; Paul Reid, MD Pfizer; Lee Chin, Wexford hurler and Healthy Town ambassador; Catherine Byrne TD; Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy; Janis Morrissey and Nancy Ward, Irish Heart Foundation.
Wexford town has been selected as the 2018 Pfizer Healthy Town. There’s a busy schedule of events planned for the autumn, aimed at helping locals of all ages achieve healthy lifestyle and eating goals.
Wexford is synonymous in Ireland with strawberries and other such healthy delights, so it isn’t surprising that the annual Pfizer Healthy Town initiative is taking place this year in the sunny southeastern county.
Throughout September and October, the townspeople will be focusing their efforts on becoming healthier and fitter in both mind and body. And with experts on hand to help them achieve their goals, they are sure to enjoy a successful outcome.
Seven years after it launched, the health programme aims to show that every town can become healthy and the coming weeks’ workshops, fitness programmes and free events will entice people to look at their own lifestyle and see what changes they can make to become healthier.
Local businesses and clubs have joined together and a Healthy Town Hub has been established to highlight the organisations which offer services and information relating to healthy living.
Throughout the eight-week initiative, the Irish Heart Foundation and local county council will be playing a big part in helping participants to reach their healthy living goals.
Over the course of the two-month programme, which will focus on body, mind, heart and nutrition, locals will be inspired by the likes of Wexford hurler Lee Chin, who will lead a walk on Friday, September 14th.
Running coach and fitness expert Mary Jennings will hold a workshop on Thursday, September 20th, and she says having a whole community involved will make getting fit much easier. “Having local groups training together allows many to relax more and see the class as social, fun and enjoyable, rather than something they ‘have’ to do,” she says.
“Also, participants learn from each other’s mistakes and a little light, friendly competition helps us do more than we would do if training alone.”
Mental health is also a key topic during the event and GP and author Dr Harry Barry will give a talk at the Clayton Hotel on Wednesday, October 10th, focusing on the importance of good mental health and wellbeing.
And, as we all know, a good diet is essential to healthy living, so what could be more inspirational than some ideas and advice from a top chef?
Well, to provide all the answers to their culinary questions, chef and author Catherine Fulvio with the Irish Heart Foundation will lead the people of Wexford through a healthy cooking demonstration on Wednesday, October 24th, at the River Bank Hotel. And this will conclude with a talk on the benefits of healthy eating and nutrition, and some top advice from an Irish Heart Foundation dietitian.
All these events are free of charge and open to the public.
Community on the move
Being fit and healthy is all about combining diet and exercise and, while not everyone is able to embark on a 10km run, or a vigorous workout at the gym, even the least energetic can put one foot in front of the other and go for a brisk walk.
Eithne Fitzpatrick, the physiotherapist who set up Wexford Walkers walking group with the sole purpose of promoting physical activity in the town, was ahead of the pack in 2011.
“Being a chartered physiotherapist, I frequently advise people they should become more active and within our group we have five walking leaders, so there is always a leader present on our scheduled walks,” she says.
“We meet every Tuesday morning at 11am at Ferrybank Swimming Pool, Wexford. The walk is open to everyone and lasts between 45 minutes to an hour. We try to cater for most fitness levels and it is free of charge, all you need is a strong pair of shoes.”
The walking numbers vary from week to week as people can turn up as they please but generally there are eight to 16 participants and Fitzpatrick is hopeful that more people will join up over the coming weeks.
“I think the Healthy Town initiative will be great for Wexford as it will heighten awareness of all the activities that are available [such as the walks] to help keep us healthy,” she says. “Walking is one of the first things a baby wants to do and one of the last things any of us wants to give up.”
Heart of the matter
Heart disease and stroke are two of the biggest health problems facing the Irish population and throughout the Healthy Town initiative, representatives from the Irish Heart Foundation will be in Wexford to offer advice on the best life changes to keep your heart healthy. Local walking enthusiasts can avail of two one-day walking leader training courses facilitated by the Irish Heart Foundation. The organisation will also develop new Slí na Sláinte walking routes in local schools and offer training to primary and secondary school teachers on how to encourage children to be more active through the day and foster a lifelong interest in activity and healthy living in their students.
“Heart disease and stroke remain two of the leading causes of death in Ireland, and the best way to reduce risk is adopting healthy habits – from healthy eating to regular physical activity,” advises Janis Morrissey, head of health promotion, information and training for the Irish Heart Foundation.
“As part of Healthy Town, we will be organising events and hands-on seminars to equip people in Wexford with tools to lead a healthier lifestyle. We are proud to be a part of this important initiative and we encourage everyone in Wexford town to take part this coming September and October.”
Everyone has a sense of pride for their own town and this is undoubtedly heightened when families, business owners and professionals all pull together to achieve something great.
Lee Chin, hurler and ambassador for Healthy Town 2018, is very proud to lead his fellow townspeople to success and says it is a great opportunity for everyone to make changes to their lifestyle.
“I am very proud to represent my home town as ambassador for this year’s Pfizer Healthy Town,” he says. “This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the huge variety of health and wellbeing services available to everyone in the community. Keeping fit and healthy is incredibly important to me as part of my daily routine and I know it can be a challenge to take the first step.
“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone getting involved to make our town healthier.”
Cllr Tony Dempsey, Mayor of Wexford, agrees; “It’s a wonderful honour to be chosen as this year’s Healthy Town,” he says. “Wexford town has an array of facilities and many organisations which are dedicated to promoting health and wellbeing, and this is a fantastic way to highlight those who are driving the health agenda in our community.
“Wexford has a long tradition of producing sports people in many different disciplines so we feel we are an excellent partner for Pfizer in this very worthwhile project. Our council will take an active role to drive participation among people of all ages and backgrounds from across the county, and we hope everyone will get involved in any way they can and make the most of this exciting programme.”
Great things happen when people come together and work as a team, and managing director of Pfizer Ireland, Paul Reid, believes Wexford has the potential to become one of the healthiest towns in the country.
“Since we began Pfizer Healthy Town in 2012, six towns in Ireland have embraced health and wellbeing through our programme of events and supports,” he says. “We hope that the people of Wexford town will be just as inspired and involved this year. Healthy Town is designed to be an accessible, positive programme – with input from local representatives, businesspeople and members of the public to ensure it serves the needs of the local community.
“We conducted some research into the current health and wellbeing of the people of Wexford town and, encouragingly, 85 per cent of people surveyed said that they exercise regularly. For this reason, we are looking forward to seeing some very active participation and to making Wexford town one of the healthiest towns in Ireland.”
For more on Healthy Town, see www.facebook.com/HealthyTownIreland