Ministers Harris and Byrne open event aimed at tackling obesity and increasing physical activity through planning and development

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne today opened a conference examining how our physical environment can impact on health and wellbeing.
The event will hear from a range of sporting and community organisations, planners and architects, HSE, local authority staff on how they can work together to design healthier communities.
Speakers include Dr Lorraine D'Arcy from Dublin Institute of Technology; Urban Designer and Planner Jason Taylor; Philip Jackson and David Dwyer from the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, the chief executive of Waterford City and County Council Michael Walsh on the Waterford Greenway, and Philip Moyles, Chairperson No Fry Zone 4 Kids Committee.
Speaking at the event, Minister Harris said obesity, especially child obesity, is among the most serious issues the country and the health services faces.
Minister Harris said “It is absolutely essential we do everything we can to increase physical activity in the community. Things such as generously sized footpaths, safe cycle lanes and accessible recreation areas all encourage citizens to make healthy choices and live healthier lives. We also have challenges around the wider obesogenic factors, including the food environment, and how we normalise healthy behaviours.
“At the strategic policy level, we have made many of the connections and alignments that need to be made. A key challenge, and indeed opportunity for all of us here today, is now to see how we can translate those national visions into reality, in a consistent way, at local level.
“This will require a high level of collaboration across government and different sectors to create solutions that sustain and promote healthy lifestyles and improved quality of life, as well as engagement with the communities and public who will benefit. I really welcome today’s event which demonstrates the level of commitment already there to making health and wellbeing everyone’s business.”
The event, which centres around themes of ‘Connect, Collaborate, Create” was organised by the cross-Government group overseeing the implementation of the National Physical Activity Plan.
Shane Ross TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport said “As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I am committed to enhancing the spaces we live in, so that choosing to make physical exercise a way of life is the natural thing to do. Well-planned transport networks which include designated and segregated cycle lanes and safe, beautiful Greenways are hugely beneficial to our quality of life and our physical and mental health. The development and roll out of hundreds of kilometres of both cycle lanes and Greenways is a core part of my Departments current remit. The success of developments like the Waterford Greenway shows that if we build the amenities for a healthy lifestyle, people will use them. This forum is a great opportunity to work together to improve the spaces we live in and put everyone’s health and well-being at the centre of our planning process.”
Brendan Griffin TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Tourism and Sport said “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that all people are encouraged and given every opportunity to be physically active and enjoy the benefits that a healthy lifestyle can bring. The role of the built and natural environment has been long recognised as pivotal to the achievement of this ambition. Our physical environment has a powerful impact on our mobility, independence, autonomy and quality of life, it can act to facilitate or indeed impede the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. I very much welcome today’s stakeholder event as it is crucial that we work ever closer together to prioritise public health and physical activity in both urban and rural planning and design.”
Minister of State, Catherine Byrne TD said “Under Healthy Ireland, we are committed to creating a healthier environment for all citizens and all communities. The physical environment and community in which we live, work and play can have a big impact on our health and that is why it is so important that we have good quality design, open space, and ease of access in our homes as well our public spaces. Through today’s event, we are engaging and working together to ensure that everyone, young and old, has the opportunity to easily make healthier choices within their own communities. Supporting families, especially children, to have a healthy weight and to gain all of the physical and mental health benefits from being active every day is a priority for me and for Healthy Ireland”.
The implementation of the national Physical Activity Plan and the Obesity Policy and Action Plan involve a wide range of Government Departments and agencies, and encompass action areas focussed on healthcare reform, communications, research and supporting healthier choices in schools, workplaces and communities, as well as actions relating to the physical environment.
The annual Healthy Ireland Fund currently supports local Authorities in implementing partnership initiatives at local level to support key Healthy Ireland policies.

Over the period 2018 to 2021, the Government is providing significantly improved funding allocations which will benefit both cycling and walking.

These improved allocations over the 2018 to 2021 period include:

• €110million specifically dedicated to cycling and walking infrastructure in our major urban areas;
• €135million for sustainable urban transport measures; and
• €750million towards the BusConnects programme in Dublin which will include delivery of around 200 kilometres of segregated cycling lanes where possible.
• €53million to support the development of new Greenways in more rural areas, in line with the recently published Greenways Strategy.