Home > IMO position paper on health inequalities.

Irish Medical Organisation. (2012) IMO position paper on health inequalities. Dublin: Irish Medical Organisation.

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IMO President, Dr. Ronan Boland said; “Factors such as poverty, inequality, social exclusion, employment, income, education, housing conditions, transport access to health care, lifestyle stress all impact significantly on an individual’s health and wellbeing.

“Evidence shows that lower socio-economic groups have relatively high mortality rates, higher levels of ill health and fewer resources to adopt healthier lifestyles when compared to better off sections of society.”

He said; “Life expectancy at birth for male professionals is 6.1 years higher and 5 years higher for female professionals than their unskilled counterparts.”

Dr. Boland said; “The Institute of Public Health in Ireland also estimates that, as a result of Ireland’s ageing population, by 2020 the number of people living with Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and stroke will rise by almost 50% (49.4% and 47.8% respectively) while the number of people with diabetes is likely to rise by 62% due principally to a marked increase in maturity-onset diabetes, the primary risk factor for this condition being obesity which is more prevalent among poorer socio-economic groups.”

In addition further research found children, particularly girls, from less socio-economically advantaged households were more likely to be overweight. The research shows that 19% of boys and 18% of girls from professional households are overweight or obese. This increases to 29% of boys and 38% of girls from semi-and unskilled social-class households.

Dr. Boland added; “International research examined found that countries with the greatest income inequality are most likely to have higher levels of health and social problems. While countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Finland with high levels of social protection and comprehensive social safety nets, have lower income inequality and thus lower levels of health and social problems. Policies are therefore needed that address the unequal distribution of wealth.”

The IMO have outlined a number of recommendations in it position paper including the establishment of a Minister for Public Health with direct responsibility for overseeing the delivery and implementation of Public Health Policy and tasked with ensuring that public policy is health proofed across all Government departments. They are also calling for an explicit statement from Government that health is a basic human right and its protection should be a core aim of Government and the State.

“Improving the health of all our citizens, particularly the poorest and most deprived, will reap long-term dividends by ensuring a healthier population, and more productive workforce, who will have less need for expensive health interventions and social economic supports, said Dr. Boland.

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