It has been predicted that by 2030, Ireland will have the highest rate of obesity in Europe (Webber et a., 2014). One in four children in Ireland are already overweight or obese (Heinen et al., 2014) and if this trend continues, as a consequence of unhealthy nutritional habits and physical inactivity, we may see this generation of children having a shorter life expectancy than their parents (Carmona, 2004).
Project Spraoi is a health promotion programme which aims to increase physical activity levels, improve nutritional habits and subsequently reduce levels of overweight and obesity amongst primary school children. It is co-ordinated and run through the Department of Sport, Leisure and Childhood Studies in Cork Institute of Technology and has been delivered in participating schools since 2013. To date, Project Spraoi has had an impact on over 2,000 children and provided support to over 100 educational practitioners from 9 schools in Cork, a county in southern Ireland.
The core philosophy, design and implementation methods of Project Spraoi are developed in collaboration with New Zealand’s Project Energize, which has reported significant health-related improvements in a similar sample population. Major components include the provision of qualified staff (Energizers) to schools to assist in the delivery of the programme. Energizers provide support and assistance to schools with any initiatives that will increase the quality and quantity of physical activity and improve knowledge and uptake of healthy eating. The Project Spraoi approach attempts to develop and create a positive, sustainable culture in school towards the promotion of physical activity, healthy eating and overall health.
Project Spraoi team currently consists of 6 Energizers who work closely with the schools. These Energizers are supervised by 6 members of the academic staff from the Department of Sport, Leisure and Childhood Studies in Cork Institute of Technology.