Press Release

Launch of Healthy Ireland- A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013 – 2025

Healthy Ireland, a new government framework for action to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in Ireland over the coming generation was launched today (28 March 2013). Healthy Irelandsets out a wide framework of actions that will be undertaken by Government Departments, public sector organisations, businesses, communities and individuals to improve health and wellbeing and reduce the risks posed to future generations.

Healthy Irelandhas been developed in response to rising levels of chronic illness, lifestyle trends that threaten health and persistent health inequalities. Healthy Ireland is based on evidence and experience from around the world which shows that to create positive change in population health and wellbeing, a whole of government approach and the involvement of local communities as well as all of society is required.

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, stated “In Ireland, our health really is our wealth. Just as we are working to get our economy back in the best possible shape, through Healthy Ireland we’re working to get our people into the best shape too – physically, emotionally and psychologically. With Healthy Ireland, we get to work together – government, families, employers, community groups – to improve the health and wellbeing of our people and create a better future for the generations to come after us.”

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, commented that “Healthy Ireland acknowledges the positive role of local authorities in protecting and promoting the health of local communities. All our local authorities will play their part in this framework, providing strong leadership at community level for the shared goals of improving people’s health and wellbeing.’

The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD, said “Our experience in Education is that the different parts of the system must interact when it comes to highlighting important policy issues that affect our children and young people. Healthy Ireland will bring further impetus to the existing programmes and strategies in place right across the education sector to improve the health of our young people, their teachers and families. We look forward to progressing education actions with other Government Departments and wider partners as part of implementing Healthy Ireland”.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, added ‘I am concerned about the increasing prevalence of obesity among children and the associated link to chronic disease in later life: over ¼ of 9 year olds have a body mass index (BMI) outside the healthy range. My Department will be working proactively with the Department of Health and other government departments to deliver a cross-sectoral response to all issues that define our children’s futures’.

Healthy Ireland lists 64 broad inter-sectoral actions, with initial partners including Government Departments, statutory agencies, civil society organisations, the community and voluntary sector, the private sector, employee representative organisations, HSE Directorates, the Health Research Board, the Institute of Public Health and relevant academic expertise. Healthy Ireland will work to refocus and redirect existing resources to enable effective co-operation between all of these partners so that more can be achieved within existing budgets.

View the Taoiseach’s message: Taoiseach’s message.

Photographs are available at: Photographs.

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Notes to Editors

How will Healthy Ireland Deliver?

  • Leadership – The Cabinet Committee on Social Policy will oversee progress on Healthy Ireland and provide leadership and accountability for its implementation. A high level implementation plan for Healthy Ireland will be agreed with key delivery partners in 2013 and a national Healthy Ireland Council will be established to include leaders from all sectors of our society. The Healthy Ireland Council will build a network of advocates at national and local level to actively promote and pursue the goals of Healthy Ireland.
  • Measurement – Implementation of Healthy Ireland’s 64 actions will be subject to rigorous planning, reporting and evaluation. This will be managed through an Outcomes Framework with key indicators and measurable targets. Indicators will be set to measure improvements in population health. These will include health status, weight, diet and activity levels. It will also include indicators to measure health inequalities and the broader determinants of health, such as the proportion of young people completing second level education, access to green spaces and other environmental influences; and indicators that measure how we are protecting the health of the population e.g. uptake of immunisation programmes.
  • Local Government – Government has agreed to draw up proposals on the role of local authorities in health and wellbeing – to support the work they do creating activity friendly environments through building cycle lanes and playgrounds or providing well-lit paths. Local authorities will continue to engage with their communities to plan these facilities and provide for the needs of their communities.
  • Exemplars – A plan to promote increased levels of physical activity across the population will be developed in 2013, as an initial exemplar for how Healthy Ireland will work – this plan will be agreed across government and will involve partners across all sectors.
  • Healthy Resources – Healthy Ireland will be implemented using existing resources; existing programmes and priorities will be reviewed to ensure they are directed toward community based programmes for those most at risk, experiencing the greatest disparities and with the greatest opportunity for impact.

Health and Wellbeing – Key Facts

1. Population

  • The population is now 4.6 million an increase of 8% since 2006
  • The population has become very diverse. The number of people living in Ireland but born outside the state increased by 25% between 2006 and 2011. This now represents 17% of the population.
  • The number of people over the age of 65 which is projected to more than double over the next 30 years with the greatest proportional increases occurring in the 85+ age group.

2. Life Expectancy

  • Life expectancy in Ireland has risen considerably over the past 10 to 15 years and is now one year above the EU average. Women are living longer than men.

Male life expectancy at birth is now 76.8 years

Female life expectancy at birth is 81.6 years

  • However, not all socio-economic groups are living longer.
  • Life expectancy at birth:

Male professional workers can expect to live until they are 81.4 years which is 6.1 years longer than their unskilled counterpart

Female professional workers can expect to live until they are 86 years which is 4.2 years longer than their unskilled counterpart

Traveller men have a life expectancy of 10 years less than settled men, and Traveller women live on average 12 years less than their settled peers.

  • When life expectancy is expressed as years lived in good health (i.e. healthy life years), the difference between women and men is much less significant, indicating that women live longer but with more health problems.

3. Mortality

  • Mortality rates have decreased over the past decade by 22.5%. Mortality from circulatory system diseases fell by almost 36% between 2001 and 2010 and cancer death rates reduced by over 15%.
  • Mortality from circulatory system diseases is now virtually the same as that for cancer whereas it was 50% higher ten years ago and almost 100% higher 20 years ago.

4. Obesity

  • Every 2 in 3 adults are overweight or obese
  • 25% of pregnant women are overweight or obese
  • 9% of three year olds in lower socio-economic groups are obese compared to 5 % in higher socio-economic groups
  • 20% of children in all socio-economic groups are overweight
  • The estimated economic cost of obesity is € 1.13 billion per year

5. Smoking

  • Around 1 million people in Ireland smoke tobacco products
  • 12% of children aged between 11 and 17 years are current smokers
  • Smoking rates are highest (56%) amongst women aged 18-29 years from poor communities, compared to 28% of young women from higher social classes
  • 1 in every 2 smokers will die of a tobacco related disease
  • 5,200 preventable deaths occur each year from tobacco
  • The estimated economic cost of smoking is €2 billion per year
  • There are also significant productivity losses due to excess absenteeism, smoking breaks and lost output due to premature death.

6. Alcohol

  • Alcohol consumption rate for Ireland is one of the highest in Europe at 11.9 litres per capita
  • Alcohol is responsible for approximately 90 deaths every month
  • Alcohol is a factor in half of all suicides
  • The estimated economic costs of dealing with the consequences of the use and misuse of alcohol is l € 3.7 billion per year

7. Mental Health

  • 1 in 4 people will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives
  • One in 20 of participants in the TILDA Study on ageing reported a doctor’s diagnosis of depression or anxiety.
  • Levels of depression and admission to psychiatric hospital are higher among less affluent socio-economic groups
  • Stress and anxiety are associated with increased risks for physical ill-health
  • It is estimated that depressive mental illness will be the leading cause of chronic disease in high income countries by 2030.
  • The economic crisis is expected to produce secondary mental health effects that may increase suicide and alcohol death rates.

8. Cancer:

  • By 2030, it is expected that the number of new cancer cases diagnosed per year will double compared with today’s figures.
  • The underlying risk of developing cancer is increasing by less than 1% annually and the expected increase is primarily due to the higher proportion of elderly people in the population but may also be influenced by the projected growth in the total population. This is the biggest predicted increase in the 27 EU Member States

9. Many chronic diseases are preventable

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) attributes 60% of the disease burden in Europe to 7 leading risk factors: hypertension, tobacco use, alcohol misuse, high cholesterol, being overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity.
  • Healthier diet, physical activity and smoking cessation could prevent 90% of diabetes, 80% or coronary heart disease and stroke and 33% of all cancers.
  • In 2010 it was estimated that 135,000 adults (over 45 years) 8.9% had diabetes. By 2020 the number is expected to rise to more than 175,000; this represents a 30% increase (an additional 40,000 adults) in ten years
  • In 2010 it was estimated that 950,000 adults (over 45 years) had hypertension. This includes nearly 40% with undiagnosed hypertension. By 2020 the number is expected to rise to more than 1,220,000. This represents a 28% increase in ten years.
  • In 2010 it was estimated that almost 23,000 adults aged 18 years and over had a stroke in the previous 12 months. By 2020 the number is expected to rise to almost 29,000.
  • Chronic diseases and their risk factors are major drivers of healthcare costs, as well as associated economic losses.