Speech by Dr. Tom Moffatt, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children at the National Health Promoting Hospitals Network Annual Conference 2001


Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be here with you in Galway this morning to speak at this conference “Health Promotion Partnerships – Pathways to Population Health Gain”. The organisers of this conference have selected a theme which I think reflects one of the most important aspects of contemporary health promotion, that of – ´partnership´.

This idea of partnership has been recognised as fundamental to successful health promotion practice and there is no more appropriate setting than the hospital to examine the partnership model. The hospital acts as an employer, a teacher of health professionals, a provider of services to all population groups and increasingly as a resource for the community. Each of these links provides an opportunity for the hospital as an institution to connect with the individual with the purpose of promoting health and well-being. It was fitting therefore for the hospital and health system to be identified in the document – The Ottawa Charter 1986, which is widely regarded as laying the foundation stones for health promotion.

History of Health Promotion

Health Promotion is broader than disease prevention and health education because it recognises that individuals wishing to adopt a healthier lifestyle are often prevented from doing so by environmental and socio-economic factors outside their control. Health Promotion was described in the Ottawa Charter as “the process of enabling individuals and communities to increase the control over the determinants of health and thereby improve their health”. Simply put health promotion can be described as “making the healthier choice the easier choice”.

The publication by the Dept of Health in 1995 of a Health Promotion Strategy recognised this and sought to give effect to a strategic approach to tackling many of the lifestyle factors which contribute to premature illness and death in Ireland. The Strategy recognised that our approach needed to evolve from the exclusively “topic-based” approach to approaches and initiatives tailored to meet the needs of a range of settings conducive to health promotion in its broadest sense.

This approach has gained strength and has been reiterated in our new National Health Promotion Strategy 2000-2005. The settings identified are schools and colleges, the youth sector, the community, the workplace and the health services and a commitment is given to work in partnership to strengthen and expand the Health Promoting Hospitals Network.

Hospitals as a setting

As one of the largest employers with over 60,000 staff the health service is ideally placed to promote health in partnership with other sectors of the community. The challenge in this setting is to find a balance between health promotion, disease prevention and illness treatment. The Health Promoting Hospitals concept and network is striving to find this balance and is a model that can be adapted for other areas of the health service.

One area that is receiving greater attention is the primary health care sector. This is because generally the first point of contact for the public is with pharmacists, general practitioners, public health nurses and allied health professionals. Collectively, these health professionals are ideally placed to provide a supportive environment that promotes health and to undertake brief interventions with clients.

A primary health care philosophy that involves the consumer should permeate the entire health service starting with primary medical care.

The Irish Experience

The Health Promoting Hospital concept was introduced to Ireland in 1992 by the Dublin Healthy Cities Project. One of the main partners in this project was the Eastern Health Board. The James Connolly Memorial Hospital was selected to be among the first hospitals in Ireland to join the European Health Promoting Hospitals Network.

It became actively involved in the movement and under the terms of its involvement in the WHO European Pilot Health Promoting Hospital Project it actively encouraged other Irish hospitals to get involved. The first national HPH conference was held in Dublin in 1995 and later that year the Irish National Health Promotion Hospital Network was founded. Thirty hospitals were represented at that inaugural meeting. Today, the network has 64 members.

The mission statement of the network is simple; it is to “support hospitals in the attainment of health gain for all”. The expansion in its number of members is testament to the success of the network.

In practical terms what has been achieved? A Minimum Standards Smoke Free Hospital Policy was launched by the Minister for Health and Children last year. The promotion of breastfeeding through the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has been greatly advanced and a common format for project documentation was agreed with the Irish Society for Quality in Healthcare and the Irish Clearing House for Health Outcomes. These initiatives are being widely adopted by hospitals throughout the country and their implementation serves not just to improve the health of those involved but to send a message to other hospitals and to the community at large that they are committed to a pro-active approach to positive health gain.

It is in their practical application that these policies demonstrate the importance of the involvement of all stakeholders in their development.

This partnership between management and staff, physician, visitor and patient leads to the creation of policies which will be adopted and adhered to.


Once again, I would like to thank the Irish National Health Promoting Hospitals Network for inviting me to address you this morning. We are seeing tremendous changes in the treatment of disease. Research developments hit the headlines on an almost daily basis. New drug therapies and advances in diagnostic and surgical techniques have resulted in dramatic improvements in the clinical treatment of illness but in tandem with these advances, we are seeing the development and expansion of health promotion.

The hospital has been the setting for the establishment of these new high-tech treatments but it is also an appropriate medium for the implementation of health promotion. It is a centre of teaching, of healing and of working. The challenge now is for the hospital to examine its ability to act as a resource for health gain.

The HPH Network is an invaluable medium in this regard. The HPH Network has as a means of expanding the movement in Ireland, developed a brief information video to explain the health promoting hospitals idea.

I would urge those hospitals who are not already involved in the network to inform themselves with the aid of this video and it will, I am sure prove to be very popular.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the sterling work carried out by Ann O´Riordan, Director of the Irish HPH Network and her staff and the many hospital and regional co-ordinators throughout the country. I would like also to take this opportunity to thank, in particular, the Network´s Chairman, Dr. Vincent Maher. Dr. Maher has I understand, completed his term of office and is to hand over to Dr. Luke Clancy at the close of the conference. Dr. Maher´s vision, dedication and commitment to the Health Promoting Hospitals Network during his time as Chairman has given new impetus to the Network and has given the Network a renewed dynamism and status on which to build. I and the Department wish him every success in his future career.

I am sure you will also join with me in thanking Dr. Clancy for accepting the appointment as new Chairman and in wishing him every success in his new role. I am confident that Dr. Clancy will continue the great work of Dr. Maher and indeed, the previous chairman, Dr. Ristard Mulcahy.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for your attention and I hope you enjoy the remainder of today´s events.