The Department of Health in the UK recently announced an investment of £5 million in sport aimed at getting children and their families to get more active. The funding is part of the UK Government’s plans to increase investment in preventative healthcare. It is estimated that preventable conditions such as diabetes, stroke and diabetes cost the NHS £1 billion a year. In Ireland, it is estimated that physical inactivity costs the HSE some €1.68 billion annually.

The UK funds are to be channelled three ways with the Youth Sport Trust receiving £3 million to develop new school sports clubs as part of the Change4Life School Sports Programme, in areas with the highest rates of childhood obesity. A further £1 million is to go to Play England which is to be used to help children and families to play together on their streets whilst, the remaining £1 million to local authorities for walking initiatives.

Announcing the investment, public health Minister, Anna Soubry said;

“We want to do everything we can to  help people lead longer, healthier lives, which is why for the first time ever, we’ve given local authorities increased and ring-fenced budgets to tackle public health issues in their local areas.”

This latest funding announcement comes on the back of the commitment earlier in the year to give £300 million directly to primary head teachers to spend on improving sport, PE and encouraging healthy lifestyles for their pupils over the next two years.

Meanwhile, PrimeMinister David Cameron has confirmed that a number of English cities and parks are to benefit from a £94 million cash injection to promote cycling. The UK Government has said that the money amounts to the single biggest ever investment in cycling.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the announcement includes a commitment to cut red tape that can “stifle cycle-friendly road design and to encourage changes to the way roads are built or altered”. UK Councils will be also expected to up their game to deliver infrastructure that takes cycling into account from the design stage.

These funding announcements are evidence of the reality that many government departments impact on sport and indeed, that sport can help meet multiple policy objectives particularly, in the area of public health. The GAA’s ASAP & Club Healthy initiatives are good examples of what is possible when sport and public health officials come together in partnership. It is hoped that increased interaction and co-operation between the Department of Health and Irish Sport will become increasingly commonplace.

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