Members of the Longford Traveller community enjoying some boxercise as part of ‘Operation Transformation’, organised by the LCRL Primary Health Care Project for Travellers.
Members of the Longford Traveller community are taking the lead in promoting lifestyle changes and preventing heart disease and diabetes.
The Primary Health Care Project for Travellers, delivered by Longford Community Resources (LCRL), is currently running its very first ‘Operation Transformation’.
According to the All Ireland Traveller Health Study, life expectancy is 15 years less for Traveller men and 11.5 years less for Traveller women than those in the general population, with heart disease and stroke the main cause of death.
High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are also a major issue in the community.
Every year, the local Traveller Project runs an extensive outreach campaign in Longford focusing on cardiovascular health.
Six local Traveller Community Health Workers visit over 120 Traveller families, delivering door-to-door information about recognising the symptoms of heart attack and how to maintain a healthy heart.
The simple message they are trying to spread is that prevention is better than cure.
This year, eight Traveller men and twenty-two Traveller women have also taken on the ‘Operation Transformation’ challenge, registering for an eight week boot camp-style programme.
They started at the beginning of February, getting their weight, BMI (Body Mass Index) and waist measured, and are now taking part in weekly nutrition talks, learning (and tasting) healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes and exercising together at the Mall.
“So far we have done some walking, Pilates, circuit training and boxercise,” says Community Health Worker Caroline Stokes.
Ms Stokes added, “It was nice to see everyone giving it a try. Every week, we get new recipes and ideas for a healthy eating plan, we talk about correct portion sizes, or how to read food labels and much more. Also, we are encouraged to increase our exercise and reminded by text about our challenges for the week.”
Alongside ‘Operation Transformation’, the Traveller Project is also supporting a number of health promotion, sport and family events for the wider community here in Longford.
Longford Wanderers FC will take on a selection of Dublin footballers. Organised by Exchange House in the home of Irish soccer, Dalymount Park, the match will take place on March 3.
The ‘Operation Transformation’ participants will also take part in the Longford Royal Canal Run on April 21.
The project has invited the Irish Heart Foundation to come to Longford on Wednesday, March 7 with their Mobile Health Unit.
This will be parked at the Longford Wanderers’ Park (Strokestown Road) from 10 am to 1 pm, and then at the Longford Shopping Centre car park from 2pm to 5pm.
“Everyone is welcome to join us for a free blood pressure check-up,” explained John O’Brien, Traveller Men’s Worker.
Mr O’Brien added, “High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, so keep an eye out on Wednesday, March 7 for the Irish Heart Foundation red van, and get it checked.”