Ulster Council Advice

ULSTER GAA: Building a GAA Healthy Club programme

THE Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme supports GAA clubs in becoming hubs for health by delivering to their members and community opportunities that reflect the national policy agenda for sport, physical activity, mental health and preventative health.

It began in 2013 as a pilot involving 16 clubs and engaged 447 clubs by 2023. It is supported by Irish Life (proud partners since 2015), as well as Healthy Ireland, the HSE, National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), and the Tomar Trust.

The programme has now entered its sixth phase, with over 200 clubs to join the programme in early March this year. The increasing interest in the programme is testament to the many benefits involved clubs are seeing in their communities.

In 2021, the GAA commissioned Just Economics to carry out a Social Return On Investment (SROI) analysis of the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme. The evaluation followed a mixed-methods study design based on the SROI framework. SROI is a methodology that compares the social, economic, and environmental value of a programme with its cost to estimate the social return.

In 2022/23, the programme engaged 447 clubs and involved 1,912 volunteers who contributed 102,292 hours annually, valued at €1.1m using the 2022 minimum wage. These volunteers organised 2,389 activities accessed 184,598 times by 92,299 individuals. Activities are spread across six areas: physical activity (44 per cent), community development (24 per cent), diversity and inclusion (9 per cent), mental fitness (10 per cent), healthy eating (7 per cent) and substance use/gambling awareness (6 per cent).

The Irish Life GAA Healthy Club Programme is delivering health and wellbeing benefits worth €50M to Ireland, according to the findings. The evaluation inferred benefits of €620,000 to our health services from changes in the service use because of individuals’ participation in the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme.

The Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs Programme also brings a range of benefits to the GAA and clubs participating in the programme, including greater involvement by participants (joining their club, taking their children to training or attending games), recruiting new members and volunteers, and improved reputation/goodwill. Demographic data shows that the programme engages an equal mix of men and women and is attracting participation from outside the GAA core base.

The research highlights that €19 of value is generated for every €1 of financial, volunteer, and in-kind investment in the Irish Life GAA Healthy Club Programme (or a return ratio of 19:1). Results show significant health and wellbeing gains for participants, including:

– Increases in physical activity (10-25 per cent)

– Adopting of healthier behaviours (40 per cent)

– starting new hobbies (17 per cent) and friendships (51 per cent)

– Improvements in life satisfaction, connectedness to other people and the community

The research only measures the impact of clubs officially involved in the Irish Life Healthy Club Programme. Of course, every GAA club is having huge health benefits for its members and community, so the positive benefits of the GAA are much greater.

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