GMIT launches Healthy Campus initiative

Anita Mahony, Chairperson of the GMIT Healthy Campus Initiative; Seán Kyne, Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands; Catherine Byrne, Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy; Dr Michael Hannon, acting president of GMIT; Catriona Morgan, chief officer, Galway City Council’s Local Community Development Committee; and Dr Lisa Ryan, head of the GMIT Department of Natural Sciences.

Anita Mahony, Chairperson of the GMIT Healthy Campus Initiative; Seán Kyne, Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands; Catherine Byrne, Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy; Dr Michael Hannon, acting president of GMIT; Catriona Morgan, chief officer, Galway City Council’s Local Community Development Committee; and Dr Lisa Ryan, head of the GMIT Department of Natural Sciences.

GMIT has this week launched initiative aimed at fostering and promoting healthy living in the workplace for both staff and students. The initiative, launched by Minister of State Catherine Byrne, includes a ban on smoking and vaping on campus, nutrition awareness, consent workshops, and positive mental health initiatives among a raft of measures.

The Healthy Campus initiative was first mooted last year by staff interested in working together to make GMIT a healthier place to study and work. The timing coincided with the national launch of the Healthy Ireland Higher Education Healthy Campus network and GMIT’s commitment to that national framework and charter. GMIT’s strategic plan 2019-2023, which was launched at Easter, also incorporates health and wellbeing goals and enablers.

Since its establishment, the working group has rolled out several successful campaigns and initiatives involving staff and students from all campuses, schools and function areas, such as:

Clean air – no smoking or vaping across all GMIT campuses policy to be rolled out in January 2020.

Positive mental health and wellbeing initiatives with the students’ union and student services.

GMIT Voices, an award-winning workplace choir set up February, and a new student choir this term.

Nutrition initiatives with the GMIT canteen and the GMIT Department of Natural Sciences.

The promotion of the Student Gastrolife Society, comprising student chefs who have produced a booklet of recipes and will shortly commence evening cooking lessons for students.

Awareness campaign about substance (drugs and alcohol ) misuse and liaison with communities.

Quit smoking campaigns.

Sexual consent workshops for all first-year students.

Active participation in the National Transport Authority’s Step Challenges – Marchathon, Walktober, and a bespoke GMIT event called You May Walk.

A new GMIT Social Running Club for staff and students in all campuses with weekly lunchtime runs; meeting up for park-runs, races, and a new Couch to 5K training group.

Peer-led activities by students from sports and exercise science, public health nutrition, culinary arts and the student Environmental Society.

A dedicated week of Healthy Campus activities as part of the #First5weeks welcome programme.

“Educational institutions are one of the most important sectors involved in implementing Healthy Ireland,” Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne said at the launch this week. “The young people who attend our higher education institutions are the future leaders and parents in our society, so it is important that they have the knowledge, capabilities, and confidence to look after their own health and wellbeing, and that they feel supported in this. I want to congratulate GMIT on the development of this initiative and the targets they have set to improve the physical, mental, and sexual health of their students. I wish them every success for a future Healthy Campus.”

Acting president of GMIT Dr Michael Hannon said: “GMIT is proud to support this Healthy Campus initiative. The impact of the staff choir on morale has been transformative since it was established, and I am delighted to see the range of healthy activities expand. I especially welcome the initiative dealing with substance misuse and encourage a zero-tolerance approach towards the use of drugs. GMIT supports the proactive stance against drug use articulated by Minister Byrne and by the Minister for Higher Education.”

Chairperson of the GMIT Healthy Campus initiative Anita Mahony added: “We are delighted with the levels of engagement from staff and students across all campuses and the positive effects it has had. One very positive initiative has been the introduction of the workplace choir, where staff from all areas of the college meet together twice per week at lunchtime with a professional choir director. The students’ union joined forces to start up a student choir this academic year, and after just two weeks this choir sounds amazing, and has students in it from all over the world.

“This month the new GMIT social staff and student running group started up, and within days 70 staff from all campuses had signed up,” Ms Mahony continued. “Consent is also a hugely important issue which GMIT has been successful in addressing, introducing SMART consent workshops to first year programmes, facilitated by trained students and staff together during the last academic year.”

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