The launch of the Healthy Laois Plan 2018-2020
A cigarette free park and playground is coming to Laois, as part of a plan to prevent future physical and mental illnesses in the county.
A new plan was launched last week in county hall, that sets out targets to achieve by 2020, in areas of physical activity, mental health, sexual health and substance abuse.
The Healthy Laois Plan 2018-2020 promises to increase its support for children, teenagers, the elderly, ethnic minorities, people on low incomes, people with disabilities, travellers and substance abusers.
The plan mainly lists many national strategies on sport, inclusion, health and wellbeing that it will implement in Laois, pledging to help groups like the Carers Association the Laois Alzheimers branch.
Specific aims include lessons for children on growing vegetables through GIY groups, an integration choir to welcome migrants, cookery lessons for vulnerable groups, more greenways and cycling trails, accessible outdoor activities and sports for people at risk of drug abuse.
The plan was written by the Laois Local Community Development Committee, in collaboration with Laois County Council and the HSE.
It was launched in November in county hall by the chairperson of Laois LCDC, Cllr Paschal McEvoy.
“This is the first plan of its kind in Laois. It is based on the premise that our health and wellbeing is affected by all aspects of life including education, socio economic status and our environment. I give my commitment in delivering this plan,” he said.
Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland said that the council had always played its part in ensuring good health, from safe drinking water to parks, good quality social housing to public sports facilities.
“Prior to 1971 local authorities were responsible for health. There was a time we gave out the glasses and false teeth. Those days are gone but while the HSE targets clinical care, health starts in the community. People who are in better health cost less to the HSE,” he said.
Fergal Fox is general manager of health promotion in the HSE.
“This is about giving responsibility to each area to prevent ill health, and we will help you do it,” he said.
Caroline Myers from Laois Sports Partnership hopes that the new blueprint will back up the work they have been doing for the past 17 years.
“It recognises the work done in Sports Partnership over the years, it is great to bring in national policies and everyone is clear now on on what the remit is. We want to get more people involved in sport for their positive physical and mental health,” she said.
Josephine Rigney is the HSEs Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention.
“This plan has put mental health in a positive way on the map and will maintain a focus on suicide figures. Everyone has to have a good level of mental health to be able to ride out the stresses we all meet, and this is a very strong foundation to build on,” she said.
The plan states that more than one in eight Laois people has a disability, 11,393 out of the 84,697 population.
There were 1,402 lone mother families with children under 15, and 121 lone father families.
6.611 people lived in designated disadvantaged areas.
There were 1,451 male carers, and 2,130 female carers.
Healthy Laois Plan is part of Health Ireland, the government's framework to improve health and wellbeing nationally.
Below: Cllr Paschal McEvoy (Chairperson Laois LCDC) and Cllr John King (Cathaoirleach Laois Co Council) with Partners in the Healthy Laois Plan 2018-2020, at the launch in County Hall, Portlaoise Photo: Michael Scully