University College Cork (UCC) has passed its final check-up with flying colours on the road to becoming a ‘Health Promoting University’, with HSE South confirming the accolade.
A letter received by UCC from Health Promotion and Improvement, HSE South, marks the university out as a leader nationally for its efforts under the umbrella of the UCC Health Matters initiative, remarking: “While many third level institutions are committed to health and wellbeing, UCC can take pride in being the first 3rd level institution to have followed the HSE South’s Framework for Health Promoting Universities and to gain formal recognition.”
A ceremony is to take place on Wednesday 25 February at 3pm to mark the culmination of several years of work, at which the HSE South will present UCC with a flag representing the University’s continued commitment to health promotion. The recognition formally acknowledges that health has been meaningfully integrated into the culture, processes and policies of UCC. Senior HSE South officials are to attend along with Cllr. Mary Shields, Lord Mayor of Cork, as well as student and staff members of UCC Health Matters, the Student Experience Office, the UCC Students’ Union, the President of UCC and members of senior management amongst others.
Architect and joint co-ordinator of the initiative Dr Michael Byrne, who is also Head of UCC’s Student Health Department, comments, “The success of the UCC Health Matters initiative partly lies in its collaborations, collaborations between students and staff, between professional practitioners and expert academics, collaborations that have improved the effectiveness and reach of all the health promoting activity on campus. Particular thanks must go to the Health Promotion and Improvement, HSE South for its encouragement and support.”
You can listen to an audio excerpt below from Dr. Michael Byrne on how it was achieved.
The entire UCC community has been involved in the journey, with the initiative first put in place in 2010. UCC President Dr Michael Murphy then signed an agreement with HSE South in December 2012 committing the University to officially becoming a health promoting setting as inspired by the World Health Organisation’s Health Promoting University (HPU) framework.
Ms Sandra Coughlan, Interim Health Promotion Manager, commends the work of the UCC Health Matters Initiative and the strategic approach UCC has taken to promoting health and wellbeing. “UCC has shown real commitment to the goal of becoming a Health Promoting University and the planning and resources committed to the process are clear.”
She continued: “(UCC) Health Matters demonstrated a joined up approach to health which reflects the government’s national Healthy Ireland agenda to improve the health and wellbeing for the people of Ireland through a whole of government and whole of society approach. Nationally, Health Promotion and Improvement are progressing the development of a national Health Promoting Colleges framework and the experiences of UCC as a flagship organisation in this regard will play an important part in its development.”
A steering group has now been in operation for several years overseeing the UCC Health Matters initiative, alongside working groups made up of a cross section of students and staff from all levels of UCC who deliver the initiative on the ground.
A plethora of initiatives have taken place under the watch of UCC Health Matters, many of which have previously attracted national interest. For example:
- A funded PhD level thesis on alcohol use published some findings in the last month that led to widespread national coverage as UCC researchers called for further public policy measures as a matter of urgency.
- UCC’s comprehensive action plan on alcohol won outright at the Irish Healthcare Awards (IHA) in 2013 for its actions to reduce alcohol-related harm among students (the plan and winning entry can be viewed here).
- In August 2013, UCC’s announcement that it was to give students the choice of alcohol-free campus accommodation under a pilot programme sparked nationwide news coverage. By September 2014, the numbers opting for the scheme had increased, leading UCC Campus Accommodation to expand the scheme further by introducing a dedicated social programme as part of a move towards wellbeing housing. The move attracted international attention as recently as two weeks ago, with The Scotsman newspaper reporting University of St Andrews in Scotland is to follow suit.
- UCC’s own annual Operation Transformation and Health Matters Days.
- Beyond the focus on alcohol and substance misuse, a variety of initiatives addressing seven other key action areas have also been pushed forward, including: Mental Health and Wellbeing; Sexual Health; Physical Activity and Active Transport; Food and nutrition; Sustainable Development; The Built Environment and Safety.
The full submission (including an executive summary) made to HSE South can be viewed here: http://www.ucc.ie/en/