Parenting support is one way used to try to help improve health and wellbeing

Cavan included in drive to empower people to lead healthier lives

County Cavan is one of 19 areas across Ireland participating in a programme to improve its population's long-term health and wellbeing.

Under the Sláintecare Healthy Communities programme support is provided to encourage tobacco cessation, healthy eating, parenting and social prescribing in the area.

Organisers hope this investment and partnership approach will empower people to make healthier lifestyle choices to improve their overall physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The areas targeted by the project were deemed "areas of greatest need" as identified using the HP deprivation index, based on the 2016 census.

One limb of the programme is 'An Integrated Alcohol Service', to provide support for people with harmful alcohol use and their families. The community-based team consists of four counsellors, a nurse, and a project worker. These services, being currently piloted in Cork and Limerick, are working closely with Alcohol Liaison Nurses in hospitals so that there is a joined-up approach to service delivery across community and hospital settings.

Each of the local authorities have signed a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to coordinate and support the Sláintecare Healthy Communities Programme with the Local Community Development Committees and their existing Healthy City and Healthy County plans as well as recruiting Healthy Community Local Development Officers to coordinate activity from a local authority perspective.

To support the work of the Local Development Officer, each local authority has been given a budget of €75,000 per community to fund projects identified within the community that will support health and wellbeing, 110 projects were funded in 2022.

Additionally, an enhancement fund will support infrastructural projects to positively impact on the health and wellbeing of those who live locally. A fund of €250,000 was allocated to each Local Authority area under the Sláintecare Healthy Communities Programme.

“Sláintecare Healthy Communities is a collective programme where we all work together to ensure that our communities in greatest need are supported to live longer, healthier lives," said Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton. “The health services cannot make these changes happen alone. To make real and lasting change we need to work together to create communities where people can thrive. Our local community partners know better than anyone else what challenges their community faces and the strengths within it. They have the relationships and trust of the community and will be a key to the success of this programme as they are already embedded into the local community.”

Social Prescribing: Social prescribing offers GPs and other health professionals a means of referring people to a range of non-clinical community supports which can have significant benefits for their overall health and wellbeing and has been used to target social isolation, loneliness and emerging mental health difficulties.

Stop Smoking Advisor: Provides one-to-one support to quit smoking including the provision of NRT or other Stop Smoking medication. They will also promote and support the extension of smoke free environments. While Ireland has made great strides in reducing tobacco consumption, levels of smoking in Ireland continue to require concerted effort to support the continued development of a tobacco-free society where people can live longer and healthier lives free from the detrimental effects of tobacco.

We Can Quit: A friendly and supportive 12-week programme, providing group behavioural support, nicotine replacement therapy and other stop smoking medication, to help attendees quit smoking and stay quit for good. This group programme utilises peer and social support as well as professional input.

Parenting Programmes: Provide families with greater access to evidence-based parenting programmes. Parenting programmes have been shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve child and parental mental health and wellbeing.

Healthy Food Made Easy: Theis programme will provide a user-friendly nutrition and cookery course that helps people increase their skills to implement a healthy diet, plan meals on a budget and make easy to cook meals.

The Making Every Contact Count: MECC programme will work with local health professionals to ensure they have the up-to-date skills to deliver brief interventions and advice for all patients regarding healthy behaviours (smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, diet and nutrition). This will see an increase in service users and patients being advised to make healthy lifestyle choices and directed to supporting resources and programmes to do so.