The Global Observatory for Physical Activity launch the second set of Country Cards: Ireland and Northern Ireland
The Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA!) was established in 2012 after the urgent call to action by the Lancet PA series. GoPA! is a global oragnisation of physical activity researchers, epidemiologists, public health policy markers and practitioners that collates global data on physical activity and health. The main goal of GoPA! is to reduce the global burden of physical inactivity related mortality and morbidity. This is the only observatory dedicated to monitoring worldwide physical activity globally. The availability of standardised information on surveillance, policy and research on physical activity was scant at this time.
The first set of “country cards” were produced in 2015 for 139 countries worldwide with data up to 2013. The findings highlighted an unequal distribution of PA suveillance, research productivity and policy development and implementation around the world. On the 27th of January 2021, after six years, the second set of country card have been released based on data up to 2019 from 217 countries (150+ local representatives part of GoPA! Network). The findings indicated equal or increased PA surveillance capacity, research productivity and national policy development and implementation.
Ireland’s representatives on the GoPA! network are Dr Niamh Murphy from Waterford Institute of Technology and Elizabeth Loughren from Sport Ireland and, in Northern Ireland, Prof Marie Murphy and Dr Angela Carlin from the University of Ulster. The GoPA! country cards have been launched with no funding, purely supported by the dedicated time provided from individuals and agencies in the member countries. It is owned by stakeholders, not governments, and thus can be more rapidly flexible and collect data from sectors beyond health, increasing its applicability and relevance.
The purpose of these country cards is to make the case for PA at the national level and can be used by governments, researchers, advocates and society. It provides surveillance of physical activity systems, which in turn helps enable physical activity. It reports on the prevalence of physical activity and on the robustness of a country’s surveillance systems’ for physical activity. It also reports on physical activity policy. A noteworthy achievement of Ireland is that we are amongst the 37.7% of countries worldwide that have a standalone physical activity policy. The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) is a cross sectoral plan with a series of working groups, but it is now at the end of its term. The next steps is to maintain the momentum which the NPAP has started, to work together towards getting more people more active more often and to monitor that progress.
A new feature in the GoPA! card includes the countries contribution to physical activity research worldwide. Physical Activity research in Ireland, from 1950 to 2019, equates to 0.58% of worldwide physical activity research i.e. 32nd of 176 ranked countries. Interestingly Nordic countries, of similar size to Ireland, perform over three times better, a function of more investment in research and development. The Lancet series in 2012 identified improving national, regional, and global scientific production and research capacity as a critical strategy for improving public health policies and programmes for physical activity. A high investment in research can translate into better knowledge production, and physical activity surveillance, policy and research are observed to be positively correlated to funding available.
IPARC is an exemplar process of the collaborative work in Ireland to improve knowledge production, translation and implementation. I-PARC is one mechanism for improving Ireland’s performance on global physical activity metrics and, most importantly, to enabling more people to be more active.
“We have the advantage of being a small country and, with I-PARC and the NPAP we have established the mechanisms and the relationships. Both of these are now at the end of their term and, with COVID, the value of physical activity for the health of the nation has never been clearer. We need to re-affirm and double our efforts.” Dr Niamh Murphy (WIT)
GoPA! is a constituent of the International Society for Physical Activity for Health (ISPAH). ISPAH held a webinar on ‘The Science Behind the Second Set of Global Observatory for Physical Activity Country Cards’ on February 15th at 7pm GMT. The recording from this webinar will be made available for ISPAH members here. For more information on GoPA! or to find your country card click here.