In this month’s career profile meet Katie Mann who is passionate about getting us active. Katie is an Active Transport Practitioner with Cycle Sense which she started with a friend in 2007. The focus is on cycling skills and road safety instruction.
What inspired you towards a career in health promotion?
I think I have to attribute my inspiration to my Dad. He was a community guy, loved life and people, having fun and deeply caring for those around him. I too like to work with people and to enable opportunities for fun, health and practical achievements. Cycling is a great medium for this. I believe the environment plays an intrinsic role in human health and well-being and cycling as active transport can contribute to healthy environments. Being active has improved by own well-being and my knowledge of the same inspires me to enable people to take up active transport. I would have to say that the inspiration for my cycle training career came from my children and their friends and seeing their enjoyment of cycling games and structured skills development. I was given the opportunity to run a cycling course in the local community and I was inspired by one of my colleagues to get tutor cycle training which led to the start of a small company delivering cycle training county wide. Training with SHEP (Social Health Education Project) encouraged me to facilitate groups and individuals through awareness of myself, others and group processes.
What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?
My main work is in primary schools with 3rd to 6th class children. I could be facilitating / teaching a theory session in the classroom and then, in the yard getting the kids on bikes and practicing cycling skills and road safety. Following sessions would see us taking the children on short routes on-road practicing the skills and knowledge gained. Currently I’m working more with adults too, with individuals and small groups. In Ireland, cyclists share the road with motorised traffic, so tuition can really help to make cycling an option. We are now offering a cycle to work programme, helping people to understand their bike and equipment, develop cycling skills and route planning. Various community programmes happen throughout the year enabling people to get cycling.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in a career in health promotion?
While health promotion can be practical it is with people that we work, and we are included in that. I believe personal development and listening skills are crucial. To be observant and curious about the people and the environments they work in is also key. Having an allowing attitude while upholding a vision seems to let the fun in :).
What does AHPI membership mean for you?
It gives me a sense of community where I can see a bigger picture of what is happening in Ireland and abroad. I feel I have a resource base and support.
What is your proudest moment working with Cycle Sense?
There are a few moments and they all involve seeing mastery of a skill / cycling. The change in facial expressions and visible confidence is lovely.
What do you find the most challenging about working in health promotion?
Transport culture in Ireland is car culture and although there is some shift to multi-mode transport there are many prejudices ingrained in social behaviour in the way we use our roads. Therefore, car drivers, occasionally, can be quite aggressive but most drivers are respectful. Breaking habits is very challenging, whether they are practical habits or social habits.
You have been given a magic wand and are able to fix one problem, what would you pick?
Abusive car use would magically disappear, and we would use our cars only when walking, cycling or public transport isn’t sufficient or available. I believe we would communicate more and be increasingly connected with each other and our environment. We would all be fitter, and the air would be of better quality.