North-east sports scientist named among Nation’s Lifesavers

Thursday 16 May 2019

A lecturer and sports scientist from RGU has today been recognised for his exceptional contribution to improving the region’s health by creating the popular and impactful Aberdeen Youth Games.

Dr Bryan McCann, a Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at the School of Health Sciences, is one of the Nation’s Lifesavers – the top 100 individuals or groups based in universities whose work is saving lives and making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing.

They have been named for the first time today as part of Universities UK’s MadeAtUni campaign, which brings to life the impact of universities on everyday lives.

Dr McCann developed the Aberdeen Youth Games in 2012 in partnership with the Active Schools team at Sport Aberdeen and North East Scotland College (NESCol). The programme sees over 100 students from a range of subject areas deliver sports coaching and positive health messages to over 6,000 pupils annually, from every primary and secondary school in Aberdeen.

Each year, the Aberdeen Youth Games culminates in a Festival of Sport, as each school participates in a fun, exciting celebration of sport. This year’s primary school Festival takes place on Friday 24 May at Aberdeen Sports Village.

Dr McCann said: “It is a fantastic honour to feature as one of the Nation’s Lifesavers because of the Aberdeen Youth Games, but this is not just about me. I could not do the work I do if it were not for the incredible efforts of my colleagues at RGU, Sport Aberdeen and NESCol, as well as significant backing from The Wood Foundation.

“The MadeAtUni campaign is a great chance to celebrate the many ways universities are having a significant impact on our everyday lives, and that impact is what the Aberdeen Youth Games is all about. As it continues to grow, it is an incredible vehicle for promoting the benefits of physical activity and I look forward to maximising on that potential.”

Dame Katherine Grainger DBE, Chair of UK Sport and Aberdeen Youth Games ambassador, added: “It is wonderful to see so many young people take part in such a variety of sports and activities as part of the Aberdeen Youth Games.

“For me, it’s not only important that they learn skills – both sporting and life skills – but they also have great fun and that’s certainly what we see every year thanks to Bryan and the team.”

The MadeAtUni campaign invited universities across the country to nominate an individual or group who has made a significant contribution to the nation’s health and wellbeing. Over 100 universities from Plymouth to Dundee submitted a nomination.

The Aberdeen Youth Games joins fellow Nation’s Lifesavers, who are fighting diseases, helping new parents and children enjoy the best start in life, supporting older people and improving our mental health and wellbeing. The selection reveals the amazing use of technology, such as drones to fight malaria, a smart glove for communicating sign language and robots helping older people.   

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President Universities UK, said: “When people think of lifesavers they tend to focus on the dedication and skill of our doctors, nurses, carers, and paramedics – many of whom are trained at universities.

“Every day, up and down the country, universities are also working on innovations to transform and save lives. Research taking place in universities is finding solutions to so many of the health and wellbeing issues we care about and the causes that matter.

“By proudly working in partnership with charities, the NHS and healthcare organisations, universities are responsible for some of our biggest health breakthroughs and in revolutionising the delivery of care.

“This campaign is a chance to bring to life the wonderful and often unexpected work going on every day in our universities and to celebrate some of the people working to make a life-changing difference to the nation.”

Research shows the public are proud of UK universities but have little understanding of the benefits they bring, with most not being aware that UK academics are behind many of the discoveries that save lives and keep up healthy. The MadeAtUni campaign gives the public an insight into some of this work and celebrates those who made it happen. More information on the campaign can be found on the dedicated website:

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