It seems like yesterday since I arrived in Limerick from Melbourne in a rainy day at the end of January of 2018 to take on a UL, EHS Dean’s Fellowship working with the Physical Activity for Health Research Group in PESS, led by Prof Catherine Woods. For me, it has been a period filled with many interesting and enriching work, social and cultural experiences, despite the well-known challenges that COVID-19 has brought to all of us in the last year and half. For those of you who don’t know, I have recently accepted a position as Coordinator of the Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration. Established in 2018, The Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (I-PARC) (https://i-parc.ie/) is an all Island project which brings together Government Departments, Agencies and Academic Institutions, as a knowledge and practice hub, in order to foster insight, intelligence and innovation to enable more people in Ireland to be more active, more often. As I-PARC Coordinator I will be responsible for the management and coordination of this collaboration following additional government funding for the next two years to enact the I-PARC Sustainability Plan, whose development was overseen competently by Dr Joey Murphy, (previously based in PESS) who is now at the University of Bristol.
In addition to my new role with I-PARC, I will remain affiliated with PESS, and the Physical Activity for Health Research Group in particular, as a Visiting Fellow. Specifically I will remain actively involved in Work Package 1 of the Policy Evaluation Network project (PEN) (https://www.jpi-pen.eu/), working with researchers in PESS: Dr Liam Kelly, PhD student Kevin Volf, Dr. Blathin Casey, Marie Curie Fellow Dr. Aurélie Van Hoye, and Prof Catherine Woods in the development of a Physical Activity Environment Policy Index, together with health policy researchers in Germany, the Netherlands and Poland. Likewise, I will remain involved in an ERASMUS + funded project titled “2PASS-4Health”, whose funding I contributed to secure, and which is aimed to promote best practices for physical activity promotion in secondary schools, working with Prof Catherine Woods, Dr Elaine Murtagh, and PhD student Caera Grady, alongside partners in Belgium, France, Portugal and Spain. In addition, I am still contributing to the dissemination of relevant outputs from the Move for Life (MFL) cluster randomised feasibility trial to promote physical activity among adults aged 50 years and over, led by Prof Catherine Woods in collaboration with the HSE and the Limerick and Clare Local Sports Partnerships. Two recent publications from this project include a qualitative study of key stakeholder perspectives on how to improve recruitment, sustainability and scalability in physical activity programmes for adults aged 50+ (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0240974) and a detailed account of the development of the MFL intervention, including use of different sources of evidence, and its implications for physical activity and health promotion practice (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149718921000781). We also submitted recently for publication a paper reporting on outcomes of MFL related to energy expenditure, body composition, and physical function and are about to submit a paper reporting on the effects of the intervention on mental health outcomes and psychosocial determinants of physical activity. Overall, the findings from both papers provide compelling evidence of promise for the MFL intervention while also providing evidence of the goodness of the existing Local Sport Partnerships physical activity programs for adults and suggesting areas for improvement.
I look forward to seeing and keep working with many of you in the near future. Stay well in the meantime,
Dr. Enrique García Bengoechea is currently Coordinator of the Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (I-PARC) at Sport Ireland and a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Science at the University of Limerick. His main research interests are physical activity promotion, the social determinants of health, participatory research, knowledge translation, health policy, and active living and the environment. Prior to Ireland, he has lived and worked in Australia, Canada, and Spain.