Speeches

Speech by Minister Brady at the launch of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research at NUI Galway

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am pleased to be here today in my capacity as Minister for Health Promotion. I would like to thank Dr. James Browne for inviting me to today’s launch. Today is an important day for NUI Galway and particularly for the Health Promotion Research Centre.

In the 21st century life expectancy has increased and this brings with it greater challenges. We need to ensure that living longer means living a healthier life for longer.

Lifestyles and health are intrinsically linked. The health status of the population is largely determined by factors outside of the health sector. From my years working in education, I am acutely aware of the role education plays as a key determinant of health. I believe that it is essential for the improvement of health, that health policy be co-ordinated with policies in sectors other than health. We need, at policy level, to take a more holistic approach to promoting, maintaining and improving health and we need to stimulate ideas for action in policy areas beyond the traditional health sector remit. We also need to promote healthy lifestyles in a more co-ordinated manner.

While it is widely accepted that the general increase in life expectancy, particularly in the developed world, reflects the lifestyle changes that have taken place as well as advances in medical practice, health care systems continue to focus primarily on treatment of diseases rather than on their prevention. The importance of research to support the effective promotion of population health and well-being cannot be under-estimated.

The Health Promotion Research Centre was established in 1990 with support from the Department of Health and Children. Since the establishment of the HPRC, my Department’s has had an ongoing relationship with the Research Centre. The HPRC, as the only dedicated health promotion research centre in Ireland, has played an important role over the past 20 years in providing the research and knowledge, the development of national policy, programme planning, implementation and evaluation.

The HPRC continues to be to the forefront in research into the health behaviours and lifestyles of the Irish population. NUI Galway was a lead partner in the recently completed Survey on Lifestyles Attitudes and Nutrition (SLAN 07) which was commissioned by the Department of Health and Children. One of the important sub-Reports to emerge from the SLAN 07 data was the Report on Mental Health and Social Well-Being in Ireland. Professor Margaret Barry and her team at the HPRC played a lead role producing this particular report.

At the end of 2009, my Department signed an agreement with the HPRC for the next phase of the Irish Health Behaviour in School–aged Children Study. The 2010 study will be the fourth round in which Ireland has participated and will continue to build on the rich set of data available on the health and lifestyle behaviours of school-going children in Ireland. The HBSC study is a collaborative study with the World Health Organisation and reflects the established international profile of the HPRC in health promotion research.

The work of the World Health Organization (WHO) is supported by a global network of collaborating centres. These are internationally recognised centres of excellence that have made formal agreements with WHO to contribute to work in specific areas and through agreed programmes of activity. The designation of the HPRC as a WHO Collaborating Centre originates from the research work undertaken to date by the HPRC in collaboration with the WHO Office in Geneva and the WHO European Office. The designation as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research formalizes the role of HPRC as a member of an international collaborative network contributing to the WHO’s programme of work and strategic objectives in health promotion. This strengthens the role of health promotion research in providing the scientific base for national and international health promotion policy and practice development.

The Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway will collaborate with the WHO on the effective production, dissemination and translation of health promotion research that will support the development of effective practice and policy at national, European and global levels. The work programme will focus on supporting evidence-based practice and policy in a number of areas including; research on promoting youth health in schools, the health of staff in the workplace, and advancing the implementation and evaluation of health promotion interventions including those that target improved mental health and social wellbeing.

Only those institutions of high scientific and technical standing that have already attained international recognition may qualify for designation as WHO collaborating centres. The designation is, therefore, a formal and fitting recognition of the national and international standing and quality of research produced at the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway.

This designation represents an important opportunity for the HPRC at NUI Galway to collaborate with the World Health Organisation on the advancement of research for the effective promotion of population health and wellbeing. I am sure that both WHO and NUI Galway are looking forward to closer working relationships.

Conclusion

The Health Promotion Research Centre in NUIG has always been held in high regard by my Department and is fully deserving of its designation as a WHO Collaborating Centre. The HPRC has a level of expertise and knowledge that will, I am sure, prove to be a very valuable resource for the WHO in the time ahead. I am confident that the Centre, which has already made a valuable contribution to research in health promotion and public health, will continue to be to the forefront at both national and global level.

Thank You.