Press Release

Minister Reilly welcomes publication of Health at a Glance 2013 by the OECD

The Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, today (21 November) welcomed the publication of the 2013 edition of the OECD’s Health at a Glance.

  • Life expectancy has increased; cancer and heart disease mortality rates fall;
  • 83% of Irish people rate their health as good or very good

“According to the OECD”, the Minister said, “life expectancy in Ireland is above the OECD average and 83% of Irish people rate their health to be good or very good, compared to the OECD average of 69%.”

“We have made substantive headway in improving health outcomes”, the Minister continued. “There are significant reductions in mortality rates since 1990 due to cancer (21%), ischemic heart disease (59%) and cerebrovascular disease (54%). However, we cannot rest easy. We need to reduce our rates of smoking*, alcohol consumption (the sixth highest in the OECD) and obesity amongst children and adults.”

“As Minister for Health, I am driving our response to these challenges under Healthy Ireland, which I launched last March. Healthy Ireland is a government framework, which sets out a vision that will improve the health and wellbeing of the population over the next 12 years. It puts forward a “whole of society” approach where we will have healthy schools, healthy workplaces, healthy towns, as well as healthy hospital and university campuses.

“Last month, I launched Tobacco Free Ireland, the first policy document to be launched under the Healthy Ireland framework. Tobacco Free Ireland sets out our strategy for achieving a tobacco free Ireland by 2025. Earlier this week, as part of implementing that strategy, I received Government approval to legislate for larger health warnings on tobacco products.

“On alcohol, the Government recently approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse, to be incorporated in a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.”

“On obesity, while the OECD highlights that we are a strong performer when it comes to children reporting exercising for at least an hour a day, as Minister for Health, I have made overweight and obesity a public health priority. I established a Special Action Group on Obesity (SAGO) comprising key stakeholders. We are seeking to promote a healthy lifestyle, to encourage people to make healthier food choices, to become more active and take the first steps towards reducing obesity.

On the cost of drugs and medicines, the Minister said, “The OECD points out the potential for reducing our spend in this area. That is why I introduced legislation to provide for a system of reference pricing and generic substitution. It will promote price competition among suppliers and ensure that lower prices are paid for these medicines resulting in further savings for both taxpayers and patients.”

The Minister noted that all of this has been achieved against a backdrop of reduced resources. He said “Between 2008 and today, health expenditure has been reduced by €1.5 billion (10%), based on savings measures totalling over €3 billion. Health at a Glance confirms that trend (6.6% over 2009 – 2011) while other OECD data shows an average reduction of 0.6% across EU Member State in 2010.”

The Minister concluded by highlighting the importance of good quality data as part of evidence-based policy making to inform the effective planning and delivery of services, and to drive quality improvement and accountability within services. He said, “The Government recently approved the drafting of a Health Identifiers Bill which will be published before the end of the year. It will provide for the introduction of an individual health identifier which will enhance patient safety, patient confidentiality, data security and administrative efficiency. It is also a fundamental building block for e-health systems”

Notes for Editors

*The rate of 29% cited in Health at a Glance is from the 2007 SLÁN Report. The latest figures from the HSE’s National Tobacco Control Office indicate an overall prevalence rate of 22%

Health at a Glance 2013 is available here and the OECD press release on Ireland is here .

Information on TFI2025 is available here and Healthy Ireland is available here.

A press release on the package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse is here and the press release on the larger health warnings on tobacco products is here.

Information reference pricing is available here  and generic substitution is available here.