Longford Travellers up for a 'Heart Challenge'

Longford Travellers up for a 'Heart Challenge'

Sixty-seven members of the Traveller community in Longford have taken part in a ‘Heart Challenge’ this Spring, choosing a practical, personal challenge to improve their heart health, such as being active, eating healthy, giving up or reducing smoking, and coping with stress.

The team of Traveller Community Health Workers from the LCRL Primary Health Care Project for Travellers have been promoting this initiative for the last two months via an outreach health promotion campaign that has included over one-hundred home visits to local families, resulting in sixty-seven people signing up for the challenge and making healthier lifestyle choices for three weeks.

“Many clients decided to try healthy eating,” explained Caroline Stokes.

She added,  “With personal challenges like giving up take-aways or fried food, or eating more fruit and vegetables, joining a dieting group in town and so on. We also had many people cutting down on cigarettes, or taking up some exercise like going walking at the Mall or joining a gym.”

Mary Nevin, also a Community Health Worker, pointed out that “for some clients, the challenge was ringing their GP and booking a proper check-up. We tried to promote that, especially for people who never had their cholesterol or blood pressure checked.”

The campaign was based on the HSE resource ‘Small Changes, Big Difference’, a culturally appropriate programme which aims to reduce heart disease and diabetes by introducing healthy lifestyle choices.

According to the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study, one in every four adult Travellers has high cholesterol and one in every three has high blood pressure, putting them more at risk of heart disease and diabetes than the general population, thus reducing life expectancy as well. Type 2 diabetes is also very common in the community.

The Traveller Primary Health Care Project (a project by Longford Community Resources clg. and funded by the HSE) works with over 120 Traveller families in Co Longford, aiming to improve their health status.