Dáil Éireann - Volume 473 - 28 January, 1997

Written Answers. - Health Strategy.

103. Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health the progress, if any, made on the targets set in the Health Strategy Document, Shaping a Healthier Future, for improving life expectancy from heart attacks, cancer and accidents. [2002/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): There are no Irish statistics available to cover changes in life expectancy since the publication of the health strategy. As outlined in the strategy, it is appropriate that trends in these areas be looked at over an extended timeframe. Considerable progress has been made in developing a framework which will enable an improvement in life expectancy to be achieved.

Following the national health strategy, a comprehensive health promotion strategy was published which looked at the main causes of preventable morbidity and mortality and which specified action plans to help reduce mortality from heart disease, cancer and accidents. A range of health promotion initiatives and programmes targeting risk factors such as smoking, overweight, diet and high blood pressure are in place or planned.

Smoking is a contributory factor to both cancer and heart disease and anti-tobacco initiatives from an important part of the work of my Department's health promotion unit. Initiatives are ongoing with other agencies including the promotion of consensual smoking control policies in the workplace.

Diet also impacts on both heart disease and cancer and healthy eating is being actively promoted. With regard to heart disease, a three year [1711] research project on cardiovascular disease and health promotion was funded by the health promotion unit and carried out by the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The health promotion unit is actively involved with the Irish Cancer Society and other agencies in raising awareness of cancer risks and prevention through campaigns like European Week Against Cancer and the dissemination of information materials.

I have, of course, launched a national cancer strategy. Its main elements include a reorganisation of cancer treatment services, elimination of shortages in certain services — including oncology and haematology and the development of other services including specialist palliative care. I regard the cancer strategy as an integral part of a series of initiatives in relation to cancer. I have also published guidelines drawn up by experts on the administration of chemotheraphy and announced details of targeted programmes of screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Actions planned to meet health promotion strategy targets on accident reduction are the promotion of educational programmes to improve [1712] knowledge and safety skills in the home and in other environments and also working with other appropriate Government Departments and agencies to introduce measures which facilitate a safer environment. An accident forum with broad intersectoral representation has been established under the auspices of the Office for Health Gain, with a view to developing a co-ordinated approach to accident prevention. Significant progress has been made in implementing the recommendations contained in the report of the Review Group on the Ambulance Services.