Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Irish researchers team up with the GAA in largest ever research project to tackle crisis in physical​ activity

Just 11% of Irish teens have mastered fundamental movements that they should have mastered by the age of 6.

Tomorrow, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics launches Moving Well - Being Well - the largest project of its kind globally - which aims to use a child-centred approach to this problem.

Running, skipping, kicking a ball, catching a ball – these are movements that come naturally to all children. At least that’s what we assume. But recent research coming out of Dublin City University has found that this isn’t the case. A 2014 study found that just 11% of Irish adolescents had mastered basic skills such as these, known as Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS).

“This was an unprecedented low,” said Dr Johann Issartel of Dublin City University’s School of Health and Human Performance. “It’s a potential catastrophe for public health because the inability to perform Fundamental Movement Skills leads to an aversion to sports and exercise later in life.”

Now the Insight Centre for Data Analytics is spearheading the largest study ever conducted into the FMS crisis and a potential solution. Researchers from Insight and DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance are joining forces with the GAA and the Dublin GAA to find a solution to the problem – the Moving Well – Being Well project.

Professor Noel O’Connor of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics said, “This is the largest project of its kind anywhere in the world. It is a wonderful example of the power of big data and data analytics. Technology will be used to gather and analyse data at a scale not previously possible. We will be assessing 3,000 children and with novel interventions, we will potentially reach 130,000 by the end of the project.”

Moving Well-Being Well will test these 3,000 primary school students in the next three months across the island of Ireland. Researchers will then create an intervention which will be adopted in schools and delivered by DCU and Insight researchers as well as Games Promotion Officers from the GAA from September 2017. Training sessions are currently underway with the Games Promotion Officers and it is hoped that in time teachers will also be trained and able to deliver the intervention. After that, the students will be retested to see how the intervention works.

GAA Director of Games Development & Research Pat Daly said, “The GAA and the Dublin GAA are delighted to be collaborating with the Insight and DCU researchers on this initiative. I don’t think we need to be alarmist here but there is a problem and this project aims to tackle it in the most child-centred, activity-based, learner-led, achievement-oriented, fun-filled and value-laden manner possible. The GAA has a proven track record in this area with our Play to Stay Well (Wellbeing & Lifelong Learning) initiative - 12,473 participants attended GAA Cúl Camps in 2016.”

Insight’s Prof Noel O’Connor added, “The project will allow us better understand the current situation regarding the physical literacy of Irish children and we will then use the unique insights this generates to develop novel approaches to address what is a key challenge for Irish society."