Public engagement and support

Diseases of lifestyle are the leading causes of death in the modern world. According to the World Health Organisation, heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes are the world’s largest killers accounting for an estimated 38 million deaths annually, with 16 million of these being premature. Lifestyle factors are heavily implicated in all these diseases and we as individuals can do a lot to prevent the development of such conditions.

The Centre for Positive Health Sciences provides evidence-based resources to help enhance understanding of the critical role that our behaviour plays in optimising our health. In particular, we are very interested in how the mind, brain and body interact in the context of maintaining health and wellness.

The Centre launched an online course on positive health, looking at the role of positive psychological factors and the insights of lifestyle medicine, in 2020.

Schools and youth

Our engagement strategy includes promoting lifelong health and well-being. In 2020, we developed the RCSI Winter School, a 10-week live teaching, online programme. The course contained information on positive psychology basics, growth mindsets, signature character strengths and a full attention-based training programme developed specifically for this age group.

The programme was delivered to 66 transition year students at Ardscoil na Tríonóide and 22 students at Athy College, both in Co. Kildare. In 2021, we delivered a free online asynchronous course on The Science of Health and Happiness for Youth, aimed at second and third level students. We will continue to ground our work with live online engagement with Athy College.

Additionally, we are collaborating with three secondary schools to co-design tools for student thriving. These schools include St. Wolstan’s Community School in Co. Kildare, Gorey Community School in Co. Wexford, and Youthreach Rush in Co. Dublin.

Youthreach aims to provide specialised education to equip early school leavers with skills for ongoing education or future employment. Through a series of four in-person co-design workshops with each of these schools, students discuss their wellness priorities and co-create ideas for digital solutions. These insights are used to guide the design of a wearable device and app with a focus on supporting student’s stress management, sleep, study habits, and digital well-being to provide a personalised resource to promote student wellbeing.

Connect5 Athy Project

Connect5 Athy is a digital health and wellbeing project led by Dr Padraic Dunne and the Digital Health Research Group at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), Centre for Positive Health Science, Sláintecare Healthy Communities Programme Kildare, Healthy Ireland and the HSE, as well as our digital health partner, Empeal. The project has featured in local media and radio. A short video describing the project can be found here.

Connect5 Athy Smartphone App - The Connect5 Athy app will connect service users (for free) to a live coach, via chat/text, video or phone. The coach will ask the user questions about lifestyle and specific areas they might like help with. For example, someone might have difficulty sleeping and managing stress, related to work. The coach will develop a plan with the service user that will help them to improve sleep and manage stress, slowly, over time. If the problems are very severe, the coach might recommend that the person contact their GP or local mental health professional. The app will also have videos and recordings on how to improve health and tips on making new healthy habits.

About Athy - Athy (population 9,077) is a market town at the meeting of the River Barrow and the Grand Canal in south-west County Kildare, Ireland, 72 kilometres southwest of Dublin.