Sport: Health Benefits

Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 28th May 2012.

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Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP 2:45 pm, 28th May 2012

11. asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to outline the work she is undertaking, in conjunction with other relevant Departments, to encourage participation in sport as a contributor to improving health. (AQO 2056/11-15)

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

My Department is, alongside other Departments, supporting Health in developing a new Investing for Health framework. As part of that process, DCAL has submitted a number of proposals to the Health Department, setting out where sport might contribute to the implementation of the framework. In addition, my Department’s sports strategy, Sport Matters, contains targets designed to increase participation in sport across the population. To ensure that these are delivered, DCAL led a Sport Matters monitoring group, chaired by me, and established to oversee the implementation of Sport Matters. The group comprises representatives from a number of key stakeholder Departments including Health, Education, Social Development, Agriculture and Rural Development, and Employment and Learning.

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

I ask the Minister, particularly in relation to health and the issues that are the responsibility of the Public Health Agency, bearing in mind prevention, promotion and protection, what steps she believes could usefully be taken with that agency to further the aims and objectives of her Department?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I have met the Health Minister on at least two occasions. We are due to have another meeting. I have met the Agriculture Minister, and I am meeting the Education Minister. As regards the Health Minister and the Public Health Agency, we are looking to use sport and physical activity as ways of promoting better health awareness, including mental health awareness. We have also met groups that are working on the prevention of suicide and groups that are trying to reduce obesity and diabetes. I have to say that the relationship with the Health Department and the Health Minister is very proactive. It is very “can do”. We are looking in our own Departments and agencies to look for gaps and make sure that we do everything in a joined up way, which I understand was not done previously.

Photo of Ian McCrea Ian McCrea DUP 3:00 pm, 28th May 2012

For most Members, childhoods resulted in being outside kicking football or playing whatever sport and getting involved in many different sporting activities at school. Can the Minister outline what discussions she has had with the Education Minister to try to encourage more people to take part in sport, not only while they are at school but while they are at home?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

As I have said, I have had no discussions with the Minister of Education solely on the Sport Matters strategy, but the officials have been meeting and working together. I want to personally meet all the Ministers, where possible, to look at a joined-up way on this.

However, I agree with the Member that it is necessary to ensure that children and young people have every opportunity to participate in sport. Recently, I met women who work in the area of sport who asked me to do the same. We need to make sure, particularly for young women, who do not feel comfortable participating in sport, in schools and outside, perhaps because of changing facilities. We must make it easier for women, and not take our eye off the ball. It is important that, throughout school and afterwards, we provide opportunities and a better way to get children and young people involved in more physical activity.