What does the life of a new Dean’s Research Fellow in Physical Activity and Health look like, I hear some of you musing… Well, if the period over the last two months or so is good indication, the answer is: quite intense, and exciting. I will start with a short trip to Bremen, Germany, for the Kick-off event of the Policy Evaluation Network (PEN), a consortium of universities and research centres from 10 European countries that aims to examine and improve the nutrition and physical activity policy landscape in Europe. UL, through PESS, has an important role in this project as Prof Catherine Woods, my mentor in the Dean’s Fellowship Program, is the Lead Researcher in the physical activity component.
Shortly after Bremen, I packed again for an invited presentation at The Active Living and Environment Symposium (TALES) in Dunedin (New Zealand), where I spoke to a very interesting mix of academics, planners, advocates and decision/policy makers about the promise of participatory research in scaling up physical activity interventions. As part of my contribution to the Symposium, and member of the Research Team of the Built Environment and Active Transport to School (BEATS) study, based at the University of Otago, I became involved with a working group of national and international experts in the development of a policy report outlining recommendations and priorities to promote active transport (i.e., walking, cycling) in New Zealand. This report will officially be launched on the 29th of April in Wellington, with confirmed attendance, among others, of the Minister of Transport of New Zealand. Having already completed both the short and long forms of the report, we are now moving to turn this document into an article detailing the process of developing the policy recommendations/priorities for possible submission to a special issue on New Zealand of the Journal of Transport and Health, which is currently in the planning stages.
From Dunedin, I flew to Melbourne, where I was based for some time before coming to UL. In terms of work, I took advantage to meet with members of the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University. The purpose of the meeting was to learn more about one of their particular intervention research projects, which is relevant to the work we are conducting at UL as we enter the next phase of the never dull Move for Life Intervention for older adults, led by Prof Catherine Woods and currently managed by Ciaran Doyle. I also met with the principal researcher of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC, based at Victoria University), with whom I have been collaborating in very interesting work regarding the effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity in socially disadvantaged groups, and more recently, on syntheses of evidence regarding correlates of total physical activity, leisure-time physical activity, and walking in socially disadvantaged groups. Fittingly, I am also collaborating with AHPC on a grant application to support ongoing work with local government to promote physical activity and healthy living in the area of Brimbank, one of the most deprived communities in the Greater Melbourne Metropolitan area.
Back home in Limerick (believe it or not, I was missing some rain) I had the chance to get involved with the Limerick City Council in the planning stages of an application to Healthy Ireland funding to support the active travel strategy in Limerick. Beyond the professional interest and motivation, as someone who regularly walks and cycles as mode of transportation this is a welcome opportunity, as you can imagine.
I was also quite pleased with news that one article I recently published with my colleagues Dr. Lisa Lorenzino (McGill University) and Dr. Shirley Gray (University of Edinburgh) received some media attention in Ireland and, particularly, Scotland. The findings reported in the article, based on a secondary analysis of data from Canadian adolescents surveyed in the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, indicate that students who enjoy physical education and the arts feel more connected to school and participate more fully in the school life than students who do not, after accounting for a wide range of potential confounders. Although still preliminary, the findings are encouraging as they appear to reinforce the role of physical education and arts education, subjects typically considered as “less academic”, in the secondary school curriculum.
As you can see, life has been pretty busy and interesting for me in recent months. It has always been this way since I arrived in UL a little more than one year ago, for that matter. How could it otherwise be when working on a variety of projects such as those previously mentioned or, speaking of never dull, real-world projects, the Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (I-PARC), in which I am also involved with Prof Catherine Woods and Project Manager Dr. Joey Murphy.
With best wishes to all,
Dr Enrique Garcia Bengoechea is the inaugural Dean’s Fellow in Physical Activity and Health in the Faculty of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Limerick. His current research interest’s include community based physical activity and health promotion and sport as context for youth development and socialization. You can contact Dr Bengoechea via email at Enrique.Garcia@ul.ie or follow his research profile on Researchgate