Speech by Mr Tim O’Malley, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children at the Launch of ‘Health Promotion in Ireland: Principles, Practice and Research’ by Denis Ryan, Patricia Mannix McNamara and Christine Deasy

Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the authors Denis Ryan, Patricia Mannix, McNamara and Christine Deasy for inviting me to launch this book on health promotion in Ireland.

Many years ago, myself and Denis Ryan were colleagues, working together in an area that was called Health Education. At that time our aim was to raise awareness of alcohol and drug issues in the community in the former Mid Western Health Board. Health Promotion as a discipline, was in its infancy, however even then there was an acknowledgement that improving health and well being could only come about as a result of engaging with key stakeholders at community level.

With the publication of the Ottawa Charter, the importance of Health Promotion as a way of improving health and well being at a population level became accepted and integrated into government policies.

Health Promotion in Ireland

Since its establishment in 1988 the Health Promotion Unit of my Department has been concerned on the one hand with policy development, research and evaluation, and on the other, with raising awareness of lifestyle issues through multi-media information campaigns and the development of materials for the public.

Since the publication of the first Health Promotion Strategy in 1995, there has been an increased emphasis on the development of settings based interventions which seek to exploit the opportunities afforded by environments such as the school, the work place, the hospital and the community for a more co-ordinated, comprehensive and integrated approach to promoting health. There has also been a considerable emphasis on identifying key target population groups and developing interventions to meet their particular needs.

The National Health Promotion Strategy 2000 – 2005

The Health Promotion Strategy 2000 – 2005 informed the direction and focus of our work in the Department in addition to providing a resource and guide for all relevant stakeholders, both statutory and non-statutory, concerned with promoting positive health.

There have been many significant health promotion developments and achievements at a national and regional level since the publication of the first strategy. These include the establishment of Health Promotion Departments within all the former health boards, led by senior managers and with dedicated budgets. We have also seen the publication of a range of strategy documents covering issues as diverse as workplace health, youth at risk, healthy ageing and a national alcohol policy.

Baseline data was developed from the first nationally representative surveys on lifestyle practices the Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition (SLAN, 1999) and Health, Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC, 1999).

Quality and Fairness

The Health Strategy ‘Quality and Fairness’ has health promotion to the forefront with the main goal “Better Health for Everyone”. The Broader issues in the strategy include interagency partnership, a community development focus and the ongoing reorientation of the health Services.

The re-organisation of the Department of Health and Children and the devolvement of executive functions to the Health Service Executive present an opportunity to address, in a more fundamental way, the broader determinants of health, such as lack of education or low socio economic status, and reduce health inequalities.

There now needs to be sustained focus on the wider social and economic determinants of health and move beyond the lifestyle risk factors. This will require collaboration and collective action across Government Departments in association with the private sector and other statutory and non-statutory agencies.

The Bangkok Charter

The Bangkok Charter the successor to the Ottawa Charter, agreed in August 2005 encourages international organisations, governments, communities, the health professions, the private sector and all other stakeholders to work together in a worldwide health promotion partnership effort by committing themselves to the key action areas and implementation strategies which include:

  • Harnessing globalization for health;
  • Making health promotion a core responsibility of all governments;
  • Making health a key component of sound corporate practices;
  • Engaging and empowering individuals and communities.

Significantly, one of the five implementation strategies identified by the Charter focuses on building capacity to promote health, particularly in the areas of policy development and practice, health literacy, community actions, leadership and research.

Building capacity, staff development and training are terms I hear being repeated throughout the area of health promotion. The need to ensure that the individuals involved in the delivery of health care are fully aware of the importance of health promotion is being recognised and developed.

The publication of this book ‘Health Promotion in Ireland: Principles, Practice and Research’ is another step forward in that health promotion is becoming integrated into all aspects of healthcare. Health professionals are being educated at college level, and now thanks to Patricia, Christine and Denis this is being achieved using for the first time a resource based on the Irish experience. I am certain that this book will become, along with the Ottawa Charter, the Health Promotion Strategy 2000-2005 one of the recommended publications required for health promotion studies in Ireland.