SCHOOL halls, playgrounds and other facilities should be open after hours so communities can use them for sporting activities in the battle against childhood obesity, it has been urged.
Dr Nazih Eldin, head of health promotion with the HSE in Dublin North East, said he had recently requested the "simple" action in a letter to and a conversation with junior minister Michael Ring.
"You already have paid for so many facilities in the community, whether it is a school hall, playground or community centre," he said at the HSE Community Games Media Awards.
"You already paid for it, so why can't we all use it rather than just one single entity alone? Why is it idle from when the school closes until the following day?"
Dr Eldin said wider access to such facilities would help organisations such as the Community Games in their efforts to get people more active.
He had been promised a more thorough response in the coming weeks from Mr Ring, who also attended the presentation ceremony in the Tullamore Court Hotel where the Irish Independent was recognised with an award for its efforts in highlighting the games.
Dr Eldin stressed obesity was a "timebomb", as the statistics showed one-in-four Irish children was overweight or obese.
Mr Ring agreed that the departments governing sport and education should all be working together.
The Mayo TD pointed out that sporting organisations sharing facilities were already being given priority under the sports capital programme.
"We live in a small country, and it is outrageous that we have colleges, we have schools and we have universities with their facilities closed for three months of the year and they are getting taxpayers' money put into them," he said.
He also paid tribute to the 10,000 volunteers helping to run the games, which last year got 200,000 young people involved.
Community Games president Gerard Davenport said they would make it a priority this year to re-establish the games in areas and counties in the North that have lapsed in recent years.
He said it was impossible to estimate the "enormous benefits" from the volunteers to help run the sports events each year.
The award for the most unusual photograph went to photographer Adrian Melia for his picture of a Laois dancer in action, while the 'Roscommon Herald' was declared the overall award winner for its coverage of the sporting events.