To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the progress of the Healthy Ireland Project; his priorities in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Martin Heydon T.D.
REPLY. Healthy Ireland, A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025, was launched in March 2013. It is the national framework for action to improve the health and wellbeing of the country over the coming generation.The Framework has four goals:
- Increase the proportion of people who are healthy at all stages of life;
- Reduce health inequalities;
- Protect the public from threats to health and wellbeing; and
- Create an environment where every individual and sector of society can play their part in achieving a healthy Ireland.
The priorities for Healthy Ireland address these four overarching goals.
The initial priority for Healthy Ireland has been to put in place the underpinning architecture to establish clear structures and accountability mechanisms for implementation on which current and future progress can be measured, evaluated and reported on. There has also been a strong focus on the development of the wider enablers of implementation such as stakeholder consultation, building a supportive culture, communication and leadership. This includes discussions with a range of different organisations and bodies to create awareness and deliver information about Healthy Ireland, to build new relationships, and to commence exploratory discussions about potential collaborations or initiatives that could be aligned with the Healthy Ireland goals and vision.
A number of key projects have been initiated since the publication of the Framework. Priorities are:
- A National Physical Activity Plan, being developed in collaboration with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and other stakeholders, to encourage greater participation in, and greater recognition of, the importance of physical activity. This Plan will be an exemplar of Healthy Ireland in action and will be a significant opportunity to build a new cross-sectoral approach to meeting the goals and vision of Healthy Ireland;
- An annual Healthy Ireland Survey which will gather information to inform the development of robust baseline data, at a national level, on a range of health and wellbeing indicators, e.g. tobacco use, alcohol consumption, physical activity, diet, sexual health and wellbeing etc. Ethical approval has been received and preparatory work including cognitive testing of questions is nearing completion. It is expected that the first wave of the survey will happen in Q4 2014. This will be the first new data of this type since the SLAN survey of 2007;
- A Research, Data & Innovation Plan which will provide a coordinated strategic approach to improve the generation and use of knowledge in areas relevant to Healthy Ireland is in development. A prioritised research programme for Healthy Ireland will be agreed, on a cross sectoral basis, which will facilitate the incorporation of research into practice, programme and policy decisions. It is anticipated that the plan will be completed in Q4 2014;
- An Outcomes Framework is being developed to provide a coherent approach to monitoring, evaluating and reporting on the implementation of the Healthy Irealand framework;
- Key policies and strategies being implemented under the Healthy Ireland umbrella include: Tobacco Free Ireland, Obesity Policy, a new National Sexual Health Strategy, the National Positive Ageing Strategy, Suicide Prevention Strategic Framework, Public Health approach to Alcohol;
- Cooperating with and supporting the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in the implementation of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People;
- Developing a national ‘Healthy Workplace’ framework across both the public and private sector on a collaborative basis;
- A Healthy Ireland Council, chaired by Mr Keith Wood, has been appointed and the Council held its inaugural meeting on 26th June 2014. It was addressed by Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organisation. It is scheduled to meet again on 23 October 2014. The Council is a key initiative to leverage engagement with whole-of-society and to connect and mobilise communities, families and individuals into a national movement with the aim of supporting everyone to enjoy the best possible health and wellbeing; and
- A number of Healthy Ireland co-branded initiatives, including across private sector partnerships will roll out in the next 6 to 18 months, supporting the ongoing communication and stakeholder engagement strategy to build a supportive culture and environment as envisaged in the vision and goals of Healthy Ireland.
I am satisfied with the progress being made by Healthy Ireland. Healthy Ireland is one the four pillars of Future Health, the Strategic Framework for Reform of the Health Service 2015-2015. It emphasises the need to move from simply treating ill people to a new concentration on keeping people healthy. I believe that we must prioritise the health and wellbeing of the population and this means that all sectors of society and government must play their part in achieving the goals of Healthy Ireland. I am conscious that more effort needs to be invested in health and wellbeing in order to overcome the health inequalities that some communities face and to combat the effects of modern diet and lifestyle on health. It will be necessary to substantially develop the concept and practice of cross departmental, cross sectoral working in order to embed the concept of ‘Health in all Policies’ across government. This is a key objective of the World Health Organisation’s Health 2020 policy on which Healthy Ireland is modelled.