Speech by Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D., Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety Opening the Health Services Executive’s Population Health Conference on the 6th February 2008, at Stewarts Hospital, Palmerstown, Dublin 20

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety, I am very pleased to be here today to open the Health Service Executive’s Conference on Population Health.

You have a very interesting programme for the day which, in looking at the vision for Population Health and the national and international population health experience, presents an opportunity to make a further contribution to the development of population health and to the major reform programme in the health services.

Population Health

The health of the population is of paramount importance.

The central role of a population health approach is reinforced within the structure of the Health Service Executive. The Population Health Directorate is positioned in the Health Service Executive to operationalise a population health approach and as a unifying force for the entire spectrum of health system interventions; from prevention and promotion to health protection, diagnosis, treatment and care; and to integrate and balance action between them. The Transformation programme requires a population health approach to underpin all service and corporate planning.

The HSE Transformation Programme has identified key challenges in how we will deliver health and social care services and improve health and social well being into the future. The international experience emphasises the importance of adopting a population health approach if we are to maximise this transformation process.

There is growing recognition that healthcare systems cannot be isolated from the rest of society. In order to be more effective they must take account of the social, economic and demographic context. Whilst it is important to ensure that health systems provide quality health and social care services, there is a need to recognise that many of the determinants of health are outside the healthcare system and include education, income and social status, poverty, transport and the environment. •The population is increasing and is now at its highest level since 1861 and is expected to increase beyond 5 million by 2020. In addition to growing in size it is becoming increasingly diverse. •Life expectancy has increased considerably over the past few decades and an ageing population will have implications for the provision of most services. •The increasing incidence and prevalence of chronic illness among the middle aged and older age groups will require the development of appropriate models of care for chronic illness. •Despite the rise in prosperity and overall improvements in the health of the Irish population, rates of mortality and morbidity are consistently higher for lower socio-economic groups. •Expectations and demands for services are increasing and costs are rising.

Action is now required to shift the focus from a national sickness service, which treats disease, to a national health service which focuses on promoting and protecting health, preventing ill-health and providing the best quality care for those who require it, in the most appropriate setting.

Reform treaty

In this regard, as you are aware, there will be referendum on the EU Reform Treaty before the summer.

Having been a member of the European Parliament for eight years and having attended numerous EU Council meetings, I know at first hand the benefits of the European Union.

In the area of health, the European Union has and is running many positive initiatives.

The European Union outlawed tobacco advertising and it introduced many strict rules which ensure that the dangers of smoking for a person’s health are now clearly labelled on tobacco packets.

The EU is to the forefront in tackling childhood obesity, at a time when there are 22 million children in Europe that are overweight.

The EU is running a TV advertising campaign together with UEFA which will be broadcast at European Champion league matches about the need, the benefits and importance of physical fitness. This will reach a watching audience of over 100 million people.

The EU is running information campaigns about the need to have prostate checks.

The EU is promoting the benefits of consuming nutritional products.

The European Union is promoting best practice in the field of mental health.

I will be urging people to Vote Yes for the EU Reform Treaty because it is a good deal for Europe and it is a good deal for Ireland.

I would like to encourage you all here today to continue your efforts in promoting, protecting and improving the health of the entire population of Ireland and helping to reduce health inequalities between population groups.

Since taking up my current position in the Department of Health and Children, I have been encouraged by the strong commitment of people working at all levels in the health services. As a consequence, I believe that if we all engage in joined up thinking then positive change can happen as witnessed by the success of the workplace smoking ban which we introduced in 2004.

As Minister with responsibility for Health Promotion I am committed to continuing programmes and initiating policies to promote healthy lifestyles and I wish to congratulate you on the progress to date and look forward to further developments. Working in partnership with public and private sectors, and with the support and commitment of Government and the public, I believe that we can, and will, achieve our aims and objectives.

I urge you to participate actively in the Conference and I hope that you have an enjoyable day.

Thank you very much.