Wexford based pilot project to receive ongoing backing by health services

The selection by Sláintecare for funding on an ongoing basis of a project piloted in its Wexford Mental Health Services has been welcomed by HSE/South East Community Healthcare (SECH).

Launched two years ago, “The Exercise Effect” was designed to help people improve mental health through physical activity and for those who use mental health services to explore physical activity as part of their journey to recovery.

As well as supporting people to “get started”, an Integrated Exercise Practitioner has been working with individuals across Co. Wexford to help them connect with and stay involved in community-based physical activity as part of their individual self-management plan for mental and physical wellbeing.

The “Exercise Effect” programme stems from Sláintecare's 10 year plan to transform Ireland’s health and social care services and an additional €20 million Sláintecare Integration Fund launched in March 2020. In addition to this funding and the co-ordination of the programme by SECH’s mental health services, “Exercise Effect” has also been supported by the HSE’s Health and Wellbeing Division.

The programme has created an additional line of referral-based therapeutic intervention for users of services in Co. Wexford. The HSE are partnered on the project by Sports Active Wexford/Wexford County Council (which has put it into operation), by an expert team from Waterford Institute of Technology (who have carried out research and evaluation of the programme) and by Mental Health Ireland (provider of mental health promotion in the voluntary sector and employers of the Exercise Practitioners for the programme).

A Webinar has been organised for Friday 28th January next to launch the evaluation of the Sláintecare Integrated Fund Programme piloted in Wexford Mental Health Services and now selected to be sustained and continued. The Webinar will also feature a contribution from the Minister of State at the Dept. of Health with responsibility for Mental Health Mary Butler TD.

Speaking about the success of “The Exercise Effect” programme, the Chief Officer of HSE/South East Community Healthcare Kate Killeen White said:

“Working in partnership with Sports Active Wexford, WIT and Mental Health Ireland, we are delighted with this community-based physical activity intervention for people with mental health difficulties in Co. Wexford. The ‘Exercise Effect’ has demonstrated innovative ways in which citizens can engage in their own health and incorporates best practice in the management of chronic diseases and caring for older people. True to the aims of Sláintecare, it encourages the shift of care to the community and the promotion of hospital avoidance.”

Outlining background and detail as how the programme operates, Paula Lowney (Chair of the Exercise Effect Project Management Group and Healthy Communities Co-ordinator/Health and Wellbeing for HSE/South East Community Healthcare) said:

 “The ‘Exercise Effect’ provides for the integration of exercise practitioners into the community mental health teams in the Wexford Mental Health Service. It provides a direct referral pathway for individuals to access individualised physical activity programmes to support their recovery. Our Exercise Practitioners focus specifically on linking the mental health service users to opportunities and amenities for physical activity in their communities.”

Welcoming recent developments, the Head of Service/Mental Health for HSE/South East Community Healthcare David Heffernan said:

“In our mental health services, the ‘Exercise Effect’ programme was piloted in the adult services in the adult and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) services in the South Wexford sector, in addition to Rehabilitation and the Psychiatry of Later Life services there. HSE/South East Community Healthcare are currently in the process of extending the services to the adult and CAMHS services in the North Wexford sector – making it available county wide.”

Speaking ahead of the Webinar, which is open to members of the public, Head of Service/Health and Wellbeing for HSE/South East Community Healthcare Derval Howley said:

“The Sláintecare integration fund has enabled us to develop a partnership approach to service delivery, with the HSE’s mental health services working in conjunction with the local sports partnership in Wexford, Mental Health Ireland and WIT  to deliver the service model. This model is the first of its kind in the Irish context and has potential to be scaled up and adopted regionally and beyond. It is our hope that the Webinar will provide the opportunity to share the journey of this project and inspire other service and partners to get on board.”


Last updated on: 21 / 01 / 2022