3rd Annual I-PARC Conference: A Volunteers Perspective – DAIRE FITZMAURICE.

January saw the 3rd Annual Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (I-PARC) Conference with the overarching theme ‘Getting more people active: Building bridges and pushing boundaries’.

The conference was over two days and was split into keynote presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions. I-PARC saw a wealth of international and Irish speakers in the areas of policy, research and practitioners including the following:

  • Michael Pratt (Palacky University, GoPa!/University of California in San Diego, US) and Prof. Peter Gelius (Friedrich Alexander-University, Germany) who presented on the importance of policies for the enhancement of PA in the whole-community.
  • Anne Lowe (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) and Flora Jackson (Public Health Scotland, UK) who highlighted the importance to modify the physical environment and the use of system-based approach to change population’s PA behaviours.
  • Tadgh McIntyre (Maymooth University) who showed the relevance of the natural environment for people’s health and physical activity.
  • Antti Blom (LIKES, Finland) who gave an overview of the Finnish National project “Schools on the Move”, where schools from the whole territory have contributed to enhancement of PA in children.

As a volunteer, our mornings before the conference were spent organising lanyards and sign-in sheets, while during the day we were directing people to breakout-rooms and assisting the moderators in timing the breakout sessions and organising the presentations on screen. This gave us a unique to connect and network with the majority of speakers over both days; and ask one of two questions that didn’t make it in the Q&A portion!

The breakout sessions, for me, were the most informative part of the conference. The sessions included a wide variety of topics such as:

  • Physical activity policies and systems
  • All Island collaboration for physical literacy and physical activity
  • Improving access to spaces and places for physical activity
  • Addressing the Sustainable Development Goals in physical activity and sport
  • Arts-based approaches to physical activity promotion
  • Fostering equity, diversity and inclusion in physical activity and sport
  • Encouraging active mobility/transportation and use of green routes
  • Improving opportunities for physical activity for people living with chronic conditions
  • Innovative ways of engaging with hard-to-reach groups

The breakout room structure allowed for a more informal discussion on the presentation topics (and even some dancing, thanks to Dr. Amanda Clifford and Dr. Roisin Cahalan) and the interaction between the presenters themselves and the audience led to great conversation, idea-sharing and problem solving.

The conference was a real eye-opener to me on all the great work that is going on nationwide by people on the ground to support an increase in physical activity and sport throughout the lifespan, for all groups. The nature of the conference makeup then allowed for information sharing between all-levels of those involved in increasing physical activity and sport participation; from those on the ground to the policy makers to the researchers.

Creating a space for all of those involved in this area to interact with each other and exchange knowledge, expertise and the opportunity to broaden networks can only strengthen our common goal to getting people more active.

The aim of the Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration is to inspire the best use of evidence, effective delivery methods, and supportive environments for improving physical activity levels in Ireland. You can find out more about I-PARC on their website here.

To access the presentation slides from the conference, you can become a member here and the slides will then be accessible to you via this link.

Daire Fitzmaurice is a PhD student in Physical Activity for Health, in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, UL. She is supervised by Dr. Brian Carson, Dr, Matthew Herring and Prof. Catherine Woods. She is in the first year of her PhD on the ULMedX programme: an exercise programme for people with a chronic illness. Daire holds a MSc. In Clinical Exercise Physiology from Liverpool John Moores University (2019-2020) and a BSc. In Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Limerick (2015-2019).

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