Overcoming Barriers to Wellbeing in Galway City: Galway Healthy Cities 2014

Galway has been a designated WHO Healthy City since 2006 and has committed to put health high on the social and political agenda and promote policies and projects that enhance health, wellbeing and sustainable development in the context of intersectoral and participatory governance, evidence-based practice, and solidarity and cooperation between local authorities, community partnerships and citizens. Galway City has been very successful in implementing a range of actions as part of its involvement in the WHO Healthy Cities programme including the Age Friendly City project, Let’s Get Galway Growing Community Organic Garden Network, and the Galway Alcohol Strategy. The Galway Healthy Cities Project is currently in Phase VI of the WHO Healthy Cities Programme (2014-2018), which will focus on implementation of Health 2020, the new European Health Policy Framework. The two key strategic goals of Health 2020 are: improving health for all and reducing health inequities; and improving leadership and participatory governance for health. The goals of Galway Healthy Cities Project also align with the goals of Healthy Ireland, the national framework for Health & Wellbeing (2013-2025), the establishment of Local Community Development Committees, and recommendations for the establishment of a People Participation Network (PPN) that will ensure extensive input by citizens into the decision-making process at local government level, specifically, in relation to wellbeing policy and projects. Collectively, these programmes and strategies endorse a whole of government, whole of society approach to promoting health and wellbeing echoed by Healthy Cities.

The strategic planning for Phase VI of the WHO Healthy Cities Programme for Galway City is supported by the Health and Wellbeing priority research group at the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change at NUI, Galway. The purpose of this workshop, facilitated by Dr. Michael Hogan (NUIG) and Professor Benjamin Broome (Arizona State University), was to bring together stakeholders to discuss barriers to wellbeing in Galway City, and options to overcome these barriers. Stakeholders from local government, health, community, academic, and public sectors reflected upon the broad issue of wellbeing in Galway City and generated a list of barriers to wellbeing. A collective intelligence methodology, Interactive Management (IM), was used to clarify, categorise, select, and structure interrelationships between barriers to wellbeing in Galway City. In the response to this system of barriers, the working group generated high impact, feasible options for overcoming barriers.

A total 149 barriers to wellbeing were organised into 12 categories – Leadership, Governance and Planning; Community Engagement; Awareness and Education; Health Services; Social Concerns, Understanding Wellbeing; Health Policy; Cultural Factors; Transport Infrastructure; Urban Design; Sport/Exercise Facilities; and Poverty and Unemployment. Twenty-three barriers from across all 12 categories were structured. The most influential barriers in the system derived from three categories – Leadership, Governance and Planning; Community Engagement; and Awareness and Education – and included lack of vision, strategic thinking and action; lack of engagement of young people in local and community politics; the challenge of making consultations all encompassing, engaging all; and lack of awareness of amenities the city has and programmes connecting to wellbeing.

A total of 254 options to overcome barriers to wellbeing in Galway City were identified. In response to the category of Leadership, planning and governance, stakeholders agreed that high impact, feasible options to overcome this category of barriers include: (a) Establish a vision and strategic objectives (5+ years) with clear goals identified and time-framed; (b) Increase monitoring and communication of progress; and (c) Create a way to develop, understand and prioritise common goals. In response to Community engagement barriers stakeholders proposed: (a) Develop a means to ensure all groups have the opportunity to engage in local issues and solutions; (b) Develop interactions within communities (e.g. visit your neighbour day, visit nursing home residents, weed your garden week) to promote local engagement; and (c) Provide more flexible consultation: out of hours, in schools, and in community spaces. In response to Awareness and Education barriers stakeholders proposed: (a) Conduct a literature review of what is already in place, (b) Use social marketing to change the way the message is getting across and (c) Ensure any education activities have a sound evidence base behind them with no use of fear and no use of guilt. Galway Healthy Cities Forum in collaboration with Galway City Council and all stakeholders is working to promote key objectives, projects, and the most effective and efficient structures for creating a strong collective voice for health and wellbeing informing and influencing local and national policy. The full report can be found here.