Three-time Irish Olympian and former 5,000m world champion, Eamon Coughlan is to launch a Leitrim County Council healthy living program as part of a unique initiative aimed at our young people.
With a dramatic rise in the number of young Irish people now being diagnosed as clinically obese and suffering other healthy issues because of poor diet and a lack of exercise, Fine Gael councillor, John McCartin has proposed a special initiative aimed at encouraging young people to take control of their health and their future.
Speaking to the Leitrim Observer, Cllr McCartin pointed out that “17,500 of all the people living in Leitrim today will die prematurely from illnesses that could have been prevented through healthier living. That’s over 55% of the population.”
Addressing his council colleagues at a recent Local Authority meeting, Cllr McCartin said “However morbid I may sound, the fact is that 12 of the 22 councillors in this room will not see the end of their natural life because of poor lifestyle choices”.
“Our rate of obesity has doubled each decade since the 1980s and young children are now regularly being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease that used to be almost exclusive to people over the age of 50.
“As elected officials, we spend most of our time bogged down in day to day parochial issues but if we are to take our role seriously, we have to spare a thought and provide a policy for the long term future well being of those who elected us.”
The Ballinamore Area councillor noted that, despite its relatively small population, Co Leitrim had a huge Olympic heritage with a number of former Olympians calling this area home. Noting the achievements of people like Eddie Leddy, Eamon Reilly, Frances Cryan, Colin Griffin and Dennis Hardman, Cllr McCartin proposed that the council spearhead an initiative to bring the excitement of the Olympic games to the classrooms of Co Leitrim.
Cllr McCartin decided to propose the initiative after a conversation with fellow Newtowngore man, Dennis Hardman.
“We were discussing how being fit could improve your performance not just physically but mentally too and I was flabbergasted when Dennis told me that he had represented Zimbabwe in shooting in both the 1980 and 1984 Olympic games.” Cllr McCartin said.
“It struck me that Leitrim has a huge Olympic heritage and Dennis was anxious to use his experience to contribute to the area in whatever way he could.”
It is now proposed that, in this Olympic year some of our former Olympians should become special ambassadors, engaging with the youth of the county in an effort to impress on them the importance of making good lifestyle choices.
“Like most problems, the best cure is prevention and prevention is best achieved through education. There is no better way to communicate this message to young people in Leitrim than through our Olympic heroes,” pointed out Cllr McCartin.
With Ballinamore’s own Colin Griffin qualifying in recent weeks to represent Ireland in the London Olympics, there will be plenty of local attention on the Olympic games and this is something that Cllr McCartin hopes to capitalise on.
“Colin’s dramatic qualification is fantastic for our county and our young people in particular,” he noted, “the monumental scale of such achievement will have a profound positive effect on Leitrim’s image”.
Having been shown two warnings inside the opening 10km Griffin kept his nerve to smash through the 3:59:00 A-standard and comfortably qualify for the London games. “It’s the stuff of Hollywood movies” Cllr McCartin said “and it’s exactly the type of excitement our Olympians can bring to classrooms all over the county.”
Fine Gael Senator and Olympian Eamon Coughlan will launch the initiative in September.