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Sinn Féin seek South Down Green Health Hub

28 October, 2018 - by Chris Hazzard

South Down MP Chris Hazzard and Mournes Cllr Willie Clarke have begun discussions with local Health Trust officials and Newry, Mourne & Down Council regarding the urgent need to embrace a new, transformative approach to healthcare in South Down. 

The Sinn Féin representatives have also engaged in a wide range of meetings with local community and voluntary organisations in recent months to witness first hand how an emerging crisis in mental ill-health requires an urgent focus and a fresh approach. 

Chris Hazzard MP said: 

“It is thought that more than 30% of adults are now physically inactive as a result of technological and digital advances in recent times. In tandem the focus of much structured physical activity has at the same time shifted indoors - gyms and sports halls. 

“This decline in physical activity is resulting in huge increases in physical disability and disease and an emerging crisis in mental ill-health. It is essential therefore that we find ways of engaging society in a truly transformative approach to physical and mental well being. 

"Ideally located within a multiplicity of the ‘great outdoors’ including forests, mountains, seaside, countryside, parks, and local gardens, South Down is perfectly equipped to utilise our surrounding environment towards transforming local health outcomes. 

"There is little doubt that nature provides an environment that does not require our direct attention, giving our natural surroundings restorative properties that benefit recovery from mental health issues in particular.

"This new appreciation for what has become known internationally as ‘green exercise’ has developed in recent years with an increasing amount of scientific research now proving the positive correlation between time spent in a natural outdoors environment and significant improvements in mental health and well being. 

“This is also consistent with the principles outlined in Michelle O'Neill's ‘Delivering Together’ plan through prioritising prevention and early intervention and helping people keep physically and mentally well.

“Having listened to many voices in recent months we believe now is the time to bring a variety of partner organisations together under the umbrella of a transformative health hub in the wider Mournes area. This would provide an historic opportunity to build on the multidisciplinary teams supporting primary care, by combine assets and share expertise in order to improve the mental and physical health of the local community here in South Down.”

Mournes Cllr Willie Clarke added:

“People are motivated to exercise for many different reasons. Whilst most are driven by the health benefits, others enjoy the social interaction of physical activity, and some enjoy the excitement of a challenge. 

“The untapped potential in ‘green exercise’ is so exciting because it provides an unrivalled mix of excitement and escapism from everyday life with a social and entertainment value that is now proven beyond doubt to have significant positive health benefits both physically and mentally. 

“I have no doubt that the natural environment around us here in the wider Mournes area presents us with a unique opportunity to harness the restorative capacity of the natural environment towards transforming the health and well-being of our local community.

“We look forward to continuing these discussions with officials and the community in the time ahead.”

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