A healthy future in store for Limerick


UL Think Tank 03by Kathy Masterson


LIMERICK’S future as a healthy city was explored at an exhibition hosted by UL think tank ‘Health Futures Lab’, which involved researchers and graduates from the fields of architecture, economics, product design, interactive media, occupational therapy, marketing and engineering.

The goal of the Health Futures Lab is to offer guidelines on how cities and societies can be designed with health and wellbeing at their core.

Dr Yoga Nathan, senior lecturer in public health at the UL Graduate Entry Medical School, explained: “Health is a complex issue and requires complex thinking on many fronts to allow the opportunities and solutions that need to be fully exploited come to being. To this end, the Health Futures Lab focused their work on a whole life approach.”

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Dr Stephen Kinsella of the Kemmy Business School added: “Ireland currently spends almost €14billion of increasingly scarce public money on health and this is projected to increase massively as the population ages. The Health Futures Lab is important for this reason alone – figuring out ways that we can live longer, healthier lives not just through technology, but through the design of services to meet people’s needs as they change.”

The researchers’ analysis found three vital themes – health promotion, big data and health, and mental health. The Health Futures Lab outlined a new initiative to tackle the growing obesity epidemic using a responsive technological system which offers personalised information regarding food and nutrition. This is planned to run alongside a health promotion.

The researchers also designed a data aggregation service called ‘Lifebase’, which ensures a timely flow of information through a person’s life as they interact with the health system.

Proposals focusing on mental health include the initiation of a ‘Shiny Happy People’ heat and wellbeing festival and a ‘Let’s Talk’ programme, which would be rolled out in existing after-school support networks in Limerick city as well as sports and artistic clubs for 12 to 16-year-olds.

The project consulted widely with the public as well as organisations such as Canteen Food Limerick, That’s Limerick City, Learning Hub Limerick and Limerick Council. The exhibit plans to move to other locations in the autumn.