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Cross Sectoral Support for Accredited Education of Physical Activity Professionals in working with People with Chronic Conditions

Published: June 25, 2024
Pihoto of the SETU Research Team along with representatives of the PACC Core Stakeholder Group and Louise Burke, Director of Participation, Sport Ireland

The SETU Research Team along with representatives of the PACC Core Stakeholder Group and Louise Burke, Director of Participation, Sport Ireland.

Cross Sectoral Support for Accredited Education of Physical Activity Professionals in working with People with Chronic Conditions

On May 21st, just under 100 individuals from health, physical activity, higher education and patient advocacy sectors came together at a symposium in Dublin to consider a new accredited educational package that would provide high quality training to current and future physical activity professionals wishing to specialise in working with people living with chronic conditions.  The symposium was organised by SETU on behalf of the Physical Activity for people with Chronic Conditions (PACC) initiative, a national collaboration of physical activity, health and academic partners dedicated to increasing the participation of people with chronic conditions in accessible and high quality physical activity.

The HSE estimates that one in two Irish people over the age of 50 lives with at least one long-term, chronic condition and that these are inversely associated with socio economic status. Given the growth in the ageing population nationally and internationally, the prevalence of individuals living with chronic conditions is likely to increase. One of the primary risk factors for the development of chronic conditions is physical inactivity.  Similarly, physical activity has been found to result in health benefits for those who have been diagnosed with chronic conditions.

And yet, in spite of the importance of physical activity in preventing, minimising and reducing the health impacts of chronic conditions, there remain gaps in community-based services nationally that provide opportunities for people with chronic conditions to participate in regular, appropriate, high quality and accessible physical activity in accordance with their needs, capacities and interests.

“Ireland needs to scale up the volume of opportunities for people with chronic conditions to engage in structured exercise and wider physical activity,” highlights Professor Michael Harrison, Head of the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at the South East Technological University (SETU). “And if we want to scale up, we need a workforce operating to a national standard in exercise and physical activity for chronic conditions that is universally recognised by all sectors: exercise, health, education and by people living with chronic conditions themselves.”

SETU has been commissioned by PACC to lead a 12-month project to develop a framework for a nationally accepted qualification in this regard. The symposium in Dublin acted as a final stage of consultation with relevant sectors regarding the development of an appropriate educational programme. In the words of Michael Harrison, the proposed programme would “build greater confidence in the people who are leading classes and organising services, that they are more tuned into the needs of people with chronic conditions and more skilled in helping participants to be active.”

Those attending the symposium endorsed the need for appropriate education and training for physical activity professionals nationally and, in particular, offered insight on the core areas of knowledge and skills that would be addressed in an emerging programme of accredited training.  The level of enthusiasm present at the event was palpable. “Anybody wandering in here now would see a room full of energy, full of discussion, lots of conversations going on,” observed Sarah O’ Brien, National Lead of the HSE’s Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme. “From the HSE’s perspective, the proposed education and training package will increase health professionals’ confidence to refer and signpost patients with chronic conditions to community-based physical activity programmes and services. This should contribute in a meaningful way to reducing the impact of long-term chronic conditions on those who experience them.”

The opportunity provided by the proposed education and training package is also considered significant by the sport and physical activity sector. Speaking at the event, Dr Úna May, CEO Sport Ireland, noted, “We are really optimistic that this framework will support people who are living with chronic conditions to be more active. We see this as a real opportunity for the sport and physical activity sector to combine with the health and higher education sectors to address a gap nationally. The sectors need to collaborate and this symposium reflects that collaboration in action.”

For Further information on the symposium, the proposed accredited education programme and/or the PACC initiative please email: Neil Haran, PACC Facilitator: njharan1968@gmail.com

PACC was initiated by the Carlow, Waterford and Westmeath Sports Partnerships following a successful funding application to the Dormant Accounts Innovation Fund, administered by Sport Ireland. PACC has also received other funding from the HSE, Sláintecare and Carlow Sports Partnership.

 


Article Modified: June 25, 2024 2:29 pm

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