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Ireland. Department of Health. (2021) Department of Health annual report 2019. Dublin: Department of Health.

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Progressing Healthy Ireland page 4.

Prevention, early intervention, and empowering people to look after their own health and wellbeing are essential elements of our Healthy Ireland strategy – the ‘whole of Government’ framework for improving health and wellbeing and the quality of people’s lives. In 2019, the following elements of this initiative were furthered.

 

  • The annual Healthy Ireland Survey was launched in November. The 2019 report found that the prevalence of smoking has dropped from 23% in 2015 to 17% in 2019; equating to an estimated 165,000 fewer smokers than there were five years ago. The survey included new areas of study including sleep and sun protection.
  • The Healthy Ireland Communications Campaign ran throughout 2019. The campaign sought to raise public awareness of gov.ie/HealthyIreland as the go-to for trusted sources of information and supports in making healthy changes.
  • A third round of the Healthy Ireland Fund was allocated in 2019. The Fund enabled local authorities to deliver local actions in key national policy areas such as obesity, physical activity, healthy eating, sexual health, mental health and smoking cessation, with a particular focus on disadvantaged communities.
  • Cross-sectoral oversight groups continued to implement the Obesity Policy and Action Plan (OPAP), and the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP).
  • The Minister for Health and the Minister for State for the National Drugs Strategy, together with the Minister for Justice and Equality, announced a health diversion approach to the possession of drugs for personal use. The decision came on foot of the report of the Working Group to Consider Alternative Approaches to the Possession of Drugs for Personal Use. A group chaired by the Department of Health is overseeing the phased implementation of this approach which will see a person found in possession of drugs for personal use diverted to the HSE for a health screening and brief intervention.
  • The Minister for Health notified the European Commission of draft regulations under the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 that prohibit price-based promotions of alcohol in order to reduce harmful binge-drinking and to make alcohol products less affordable for young people. In addition, sections of the Act which became law in 2019 included a prohibition on the advertising of alcohol in or on public service vehicles, within public transport infrastructure and within 200 metres of a school, a crèche or a local authority playground; a restriction on alcohol advertising in cinemas; and a ban on children’s clothing that advertises alcohol.
  • Ireland was selected as the location for the Global Alcohol Policy Conference 2020.
  • The first set of data on the extent of gambling in Ireland was published, relating to 2014 and 2015. The survey provides a baseline of data to assist in policy formulation, future planning and action on gambling.
  • Smile agus Sláinte, the new National Oral Health Policy, was published in April. The plan sees the approach to oral health evolve from “diagnose and treat” to a person-centred, proactive and preventative approach available locally, in line with the vision as set out under Sláintecare.
  • Additional funding of €1million was made available for implementation of the National Drugs Strategy, ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland, 2017-2025’. The additional funding addresses the priorities set out in the strategy including early harm reduction responses, emerging trends in substance misuse and improving services for at-risk groups. Fourteen strategic drug and alcohol initiatives were selected for funding for a 36-month period; these initiatives were identified as priorities by drug and alcohol task forces. €6m in funding was administered to task forces and voluntary organisations.
  • Progress was made towards the establishment of a pilot medically supervised injecting facility in Dublin city, with the decision of An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for the facility to Merchants Quay Ireland in December 2019. The supervised Injecting Facility will address the high number of deaths among people injecting drugs in Dublin city by supporting homeless and other vulnerable drug users to access and engage with health care services.
  • The Department hosted the National Drugs Forum in November, in conjunction with the Health Research Board; this forum was attended by over 200 delegates from drug and alcohol services across the country. The theme of the forum was ‘Inclusion health: responding to the complex health needs of people who use drugs’.
  • At the British-Irish Council Summit hosted by the Irish Government in November, the Minister for Health and the Minister for State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy hosted a meeting of health ministers from the eight member governments and administrations on health and social initiatives to combat substance misuse. Ministers also visited the inclusion health hub in Dublin’s North East Inner City which is transforming the delivery of health services for people living in the area who use drugs.
  • The Department secured additional funding of €1.7 million for drug and alcohol services in National Service Plan (NSP) 2020, with a particular focus on services for women and children.
  • The General Scheme was finalised for the Public Health Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products Bill.

 

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