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Diet and exercise programme generates big benefits



A Galway programme focusing on diet and exercise which aims to prevent heart attacks and strokes has been found to generate benefits worth eight times what it costs to run.

A report launched to mark World Heart Day today by the National Institute for Preventive Cardiology states that the Croí programme points to how the health service could be reshaped to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.

The Croí MyAction Programme operating for the past five years at the charity’s base in Newcastle in the city has treated 617 high risk individuals and their partners.

Malachy Matthew: suffered a mini stroke.

Malachy Matthew: suffered a mini stroke.

An independent health economic evaluation funded by Healthy Ireland has found that every €1 invested, an average €8 is generated in benefits. So far €700,000 has been spent on delivering the 12-16 week intervention programme for free to those who most need it.

This has yielded benefits of €4.8m due to a variety of health changes.

Among them a smoking quit rate of 51%, which results in a halving of cardiac events; greater adherence to the ‘Mediterranean Diet’; an increase in physical activity targets from 13% to 52%, which reduces cardiac events by nearly a third; an average weight reduction of over eight pounds; and healthier blood pressure and cholesterol readings.

Croi’s Director of Prevention Programmes, Irene Gibson, said the report demonstrates for the first time in Ireland that prevention does work. Investing in prevention can deliver economic as well as health gains.

“With adequate investment, we could move from a reactive service which is overly reliant on acute hospital care and expensive cardiac procedures to a more proactive preventive model utilising community programmes as a third tier of healthcare,” she explained.

“The Croí programme is an excellent demonstration of how best practice guidelines can be translated into everyday clinical practice. Empowering people through an individualised approach to behaviour and lifestyle change is the key.

“However, there is a huge training need among healthcare professionals to equip them with the skills necessary to support and facilitate often complex lifestyle and behaviour change.”

The Croí prevention programme involves specialist nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists and physicians engaging in an intensive lifestyle and risk factor reduction programme where all patients and an accompanying family member are assessed at the start of the programme, on programme completion and again at one year.

Advocates: brothers Albert and Robert O'Reilly.

Advocates: brothers Albert and Robert O’Reilly.

The Galway programme was recently selected as Ireland’s model of best practice in chronic disease management and recommended to CHRODIS, a European body that aims to promote good practice in chronic disease management across Europe.

The analysis found there was an 88% uptake, which remained at 86% a year on.

The HSE West Galway Primary Community and Continuing Care had committed to funding a Croí MyAction pilot programme for three years, however it was discontinued early in year two due to budget constraints.

Since then the programme has been funded entirely by Croí through its fundraising activities and philanthropic support. The cost per participant is €1,169.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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