Monday, 21 May 2018

NUI Galway 2018 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study Underway

The 2018 HBSC study marks 20 years of research and will cover mental health, use of e-cigarettes, sunbed use and means of sunburn protection, romantic attraction, cyberbullying, traditional bullying and body image The Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway is currently undertaking the 2018 Health Behaviour in School Aged Children (HBSC) study, and are asking Ireland’s schoolchildren to lend their voices to the research.   The study coincides with the 20th anniversary of Health Behaviour in School-aged Children in Ireland research, which in partnership with the World Health Organisation takes place every four years in over 40 countries and regions in Europe and North America. The findings from the 2018 research will be published in spring 2019.   Since 1998, the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland study, carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, has completed six survey rounds, allowing them to analyse trends in child and adolescent health. The results show that many aspects of children’s lives in Ireland have improved, but there are still important challenges.   The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study adapts over time to the lifestyles and experiences of young people. New questions in the 2018 study will cover mental health and electronic media communication, the use of e-cigarettes, sunbed use and means of sunburn protection, romantic attraction, cyberbullying, traditional bullying and body image, and children’s sense of freedom and awareness of their rights as a young person.   All across Ireland, 10,000 young people in primary and secondary schools ranging from ages 9-17 will take part in the 2018 survey. Children will be invited to fill in a questionnaire asking about different aspects of their lives. The questions cover positive health behaviour such as physical activity, and negative health behaviours such as smoking and drinking, as well as wellbeing and life satisfaction. The study also asks questions in the contexts of children’s lives, like their friendships, families, schools and local communities. The analysis of their answers will inform policy and practice development in Ireland and Europe about how to support children and young people and how to improve their health and wellbeing.   Speaking about the research, Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, said: “We strongly believe that young people should have a voice in any research on their health and welfare, and we keep them involved in all stages of the study. The Citizen Participation Unit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland research team is inviting schoolchildren to identify and prioritise areas that are important in their lives. Then the children from ages 9-17 write their own questions for inclusion in the HBSC Ireland survey. These questions from the children include, for example, how often children play with their families, how self-confident they are, and whether they feel comfortable with their friends.”   Examples of the trends observed in the HBSC Ireland study over the past 20 years: Between 1998 and 2014 there was a significant decrease in the proportion of children who reported being current smokers (22.6% in 1998; 8.3% in 2014). Other indicators of smoking, such as early onset of smoking, also showed favourable changes. Between 1998 and 2014 there was a statistically significant decrease in the proportion of children who reported having ever been drunk (33.0% in 1998; 21.0% in 2014). Other indicators of drinking, such as early age of having the first alcoholic drink, also showed favourable changes. Between 1998 and 2014 there was a significant increase in the proportion of children who reported to have brushed their teeth more than once a day (57.6% in 1998; 69.5% in 2014). Between 1998 and 2014 there was a statistically significant increase in the proportion of children who reported finding it easy to talk to their parents about things that really bother them (for fathers: 73.0% in 1998; 82.2% in 2014; for mothers, 47.4% in 1998; 69.3% in 2014). The international Health Behaviour in School-aged Children research network agreed a group of ‘core’ questions on the fundamental aspects of healthy and risky activities, such as eating and dieting, smoking and alcohol, physical activity, school experience and support from family and friends that are used in all countries in exactly the same way. This means that the researchers at NUI Galway can compare young people’s health and wellbeing across all 40 plus countries that take part, and they believe it is crucial that young people have a voice in how their health is studied.   As well as serving as a monitoring and a knowledge-generating function, one of the key objectives of the HBSC research has been to inform decision-making about policy and practice. Irish data collected has been used to inform many national authorities and international health organisations. The Health Promotion Research Centre’s findings are channelled back to national and local youth health strategies, including the ‘State of the Nation’s Children’ and the ‘Better Outcomes Brighter Futures’ policy framework. Data from HBSC Ireland has been channelled into health-promoting initiatives including Tobacco Free Ireland and AlcoholAction Ireland, and are included in National Policy documents such as Healthy Ireland, the National Drugs and Alcohol Strategy, and the National Physical Activity plan.   International organisations like the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, UNESCO, the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also use data from the Irish HBSC study in their work.   A detailed report on the trends over time can be found here:     For more information about Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland, visit:    -Ends-  

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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

A new report published today by Volunteer Ireland and NUI Galway explores how volunteering impacts the development and sustainability of rural communities. The report was launched at NUI Galway to mark National Volunteering Week (14th – 20th May) by Minister Sean Kyne TD, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources and Pat Spillane, Ambassador for the Action Plan for Rural Ireland. Drawing on personal interviews and survey data, the report identifies a range of important impacts that volunteers have on rural communities. This includes positive impacts on rural infrastructure, the local economy, inhabitants themselves, social links and culture. For example, the research illustrates that volunteers play a critical role in providing local services such as children’s facilities; creating employment and improving the economy by delivering local festivals; and creating social links by fostering opportunities to meet new and diverse people. Both interviewees and survey respondents felt that volunteers were vital to sustaining rural communities. Speaking ahead of the launch, Volunteer Ireland’s Nina Arwitz, said: “Volunteering has a huge role to play in building healthy, connected communities and this is true especially in rural communities. Facing issues such as emigration and isolation, volunteers provide the social fabric of many rural communities. This research highlights not only the wide ranging impacts of volunteering on communities but also the less tangible benefits such as a sense of belonging and connection to one’s community.” NUI Galway’s Dr Maura Farrell, who led the research, continued: “Many rural communities are highly dependent on local volunteers to ensure the availability of services and facilities. Engaging our rural youth in sport; becoming a companion to an elderly neighbour or enabling a rural development project are only snapshots of what is achieved by rural volunteers, who are the drivers of rural sustainability and development and the heroes of many rural communities.”     Launching the report, Minister Kyne added: “Volunteers make a difference to communities across Ireland every day. I’m delighted to launch this research demonstrating the very real impact that volunteers have on rural communities in particular. Whether people volunteer with an organisation or simply lend a neighbour a hand, they make a critical contribution to sustainable, cohesive communities.”  eTownz CEO Pat Kennedy explained "When working with communities we focus on understanding and developing the assets within the community. Local volunteers are often the most important asset of a community and this research helped to shine a light on the huge impact they have in communities across rural Ireland." Finally, Ms Arwitz noted: “This research has evidenced something we’ve known to be true for a long time – volunteering builds better communities. We work to foster this through the national network of local Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services that provide support to communities and advice to both organisations and volunteers. Together we aim to make sure that everyone feels connected to their community through volunteering. Research like this is key to informing our work.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Dr Aidan Thomson appointed as new Head of Music at NUI Galway From September 2018, students at NUI Galway will be able to take a Bachelor of Arts honours degree in Music. This is an exciting development for music making and music education in the west of Ireland, and builds on the University’s established reputation for excellence in creative arts subjects.   The University has also announced the appointment of new Head of Music, Dr Aidan Thomson. Dr Thomson has taught at the University of Oxford, the University of Leeds and, for the last fourteen years, Queen’s University Belfast, principally in music history, theory and analysis, but also in performance.   A feature of the four-year BA degree is that all students will have the opportunity in their third year to undertake a music-related placement. Students will also be able to work with top musical professionals throughout their degree, notably the current Galway Musicians in Residence, the ConTempo String Quartet.   The core of the degree is a thorough grounding in musicianship - theory, harmony, keyboard harmony and critical listening - and training in the repertory and culture of western classical and Irish traditional music. Students will also take core modules in performance, composition and sound technology over the course of their first two years. The degree is thus aligned with the requirements of the Irish Teaching Council, meaning that graduates would be equipped to take postgraduate teaching qualifications in Music at primary and secondary level.   Students will be able to learn from leading professional musicians during their degree through masterclasses and concerts. The university is developing strategic partnerships with the Galway Music Residency and Music for Galway, and is building on existing expertise in Music in different disciplines within the institution.   The degree complements many other disciplines within the College of Arts: English, Irish Studies, modern languages, and, most significantly, Drama and Film Studies. Students will have the chance to take modules that look at the relationship between music and theatre, and music and words, both academically and practically. In their final year, they will also take a module in writing about music and performance criticism, which is a feature of all creative arts subjects at NUI Galway.   Dr Aidan Thomson, newly appointed Senior Lecturer in Music at NUI Galway, said: “The timing of this new degree could not be better. Introducing music has the potential to make NUI Galway an important hub for musical performance, creation and thought. It builds on Galway’s reputation as a centre for artistic excellence, as recognized in its City of Culture status in 2020. The flexibility of the Music degree will equip students to embark on a wide variety of careers. They will be ideally equipped to build on the creative energy that will be Galway 2020’s legacy, be it as performers, composers, teachers, journalists, arts administrators or broadcasters, among others. But even before that, our students will be at the heart of the creative life of the university, the city and beyond.”   For more information on the new BA in Music visit or watch a video about the programme at   -Ends-

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights, School of Law, is hosting an international conference on ‘The Rights of Migrants and Refugees: the role of courts and tribunals’ from 17-18 May. This two-day event brings together leading judges, practitioners and academics working on pressing issues of migration and refugee law internationally.   Professor Siobhán Mullally, Established Professor of Human Rights Law, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, said: “More people are forcibly displaced from their homes today than at any other time since the ending of World War II. The rights of migrants and refugees continue to be under threat, with many forced to take perilous journeys to reach safety, or to seek a ‘better place in the world’. Courts play a critical role in ensuring that laws do not yield to populist politics that seek to limit the protections of human rights and constitutional laws. In recent years, Irish courts have delivered landmark judgments on many of the most pressing issues for migrants and refugees, including on the right to work, family unity, protection against removal and detention, best interests of the child, and non-punishment of victims of trafficking. These and other questions will be explored at this two-day international conference.”   Keynote speakers include: Judge Paolo Pinto de Albuquerque, European Court of Human Rights; Judge Gerard Hogan, Court of Appeal, Ireland; and Hilkka Becker, Chairperson, International Protection Appeals Tribunal. Panellists include leading immigration law practitioners from Ireland and the UK, and academics and civil society representatives.   Full details and programme available at For more information or queries contact Professor Siobhán Mullally, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, at   -Ends-

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