“Getting Ireland active”-Application of a systems approach to increase physical activity in Ireland using the GAPPA framework

Joseph J. Murphy, Fiona Mansergh, Marie H. Murphy, Niamh Murphy, Benny Cullen, Sarah O'Brien, Stephen Finn, Grainne O'Donoghue, Niamh Barry, Shirley O'Shea, Kevin M. Leyden, Peter Smyth, Jemima Cooper, Enrique G. Bengoechea, Nick Cavill, Andrew J. Milat, Adrian E. Bauman, Catherine B. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Physical activity (PA) promotion is a complex challenge, with the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA) endorsing a systems approach and recommending countries assess existing areas of progress which can be strengthened. This paper reports a process facilitating a systems approach for identifying current good practice and gaps for promoting PA in Ireland. Elements of participatory action research were enabled through 3 stages: (1) aligning examples of actions from Irish policy documents (n = 3) to the GAPPA, (2) workshop with stakeholders across multiple sectors, and (3) review of outputs. Data collected through the workshop were analyzed using a deductive thematic analysis guided by the GAPPA. The policy context in Ireland aligns closely to the GAPPA with the creation of Active Systems the most common strategic objective across policy documents. Forty participants (50% male) took part in the systems approach workshop, which after revision resulted in 80 examples of good practice and 121 actions for greater impact. A pragmatic and replicable process facilitating a systems approach was adopted and showed current Irish policy and practices align with the GAPPA “good practices.” The process provides existing areas of progress which can be strengthened, as well as the policy opportunities and practice gaps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1427-1436
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Activity and Health
Issue number11
Early online date27 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The multisectoral Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (I-PARC)22 was established in 2018, with funding from the Health Research Board Applied Partnership Award and Healthy Ireland. The I-PARC project team consists of 14 organizations (National Government Departments = 3, State Agencies = 5, and Research Institutions = 6) and invited international experts (n = 4). Its aim is to bring these researchers and knowledge users together to apply insight, intelligence, and innovation to the challenge of getting more people in Ireland to become more active, more often. During its establishment, I-PARC determined the need to identify areas of strength, but also gaps or points of weakness in PA policy and practice according to the GAPPA whole-of-system approach. This paper reports on the process that I-PARC adopted to facilitate reflection, planning, and improvement of communication between sectors. Furthermore, this paper presents the results from an Irish case study, which demonstrates the potential of adopting such an approach in other countries to help understand the current context and advocate the use of the GAPPA for future action.

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the contributions of the following members of the I-PARC Team: Caera Grady (University of Limerick), Colette Brolly (Public Health Agency Northern Ireland), David Callaghan (Sport Ireland), Dr Femke van Nassau (Amsterdam UMC), James Lavelle (Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media), Prof Nanette Mutrie (The University of Edinburgh), Ronan Kielt (Department of Education and Skills), Dr Paul Kelly (The University of Edinburgh), Dr Paula Carroll (Waterford Institute of Technology), and Vydehi Muppavarapu (Sport Ireland). This work was funded by the Health Research Board (HRB APA-2017-030) and the Department of Health (through Healthy Ireland). The workshops were co-funded by the Health Research Board, Sport Ireland, Health Service Executive and Department of Health (through Healthy Ireland).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Human Kinetics, Inc.


  • Collaboration
  • Methods
  • Participatory action research
  • Pragmatic


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