Tuesday, 18 February 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
43. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health whether he has satisfied himself that the health promotion unit within his Department has the finance and the independence necessary to tackle the task of promoting an effective preventive health policy.
Dr. O'Connell: The 1992 funding available to the health promotion unit from my Department's Estimate represents an increase of 20 per cent over last year's figure. This reflects the Government's commitment to health promotion and the necessary support for the unit's programmes.
The health promotion unit within my Department has a dual remit in terms of developing national health promotion policies and in developing and implementing health promotion programmes. A national nutrition plan was launched in 1991, a national strategy on health promotion is currently being prepared by the unit and the unit is a key participant with the Advisory Council on Health Promotion in developing a national policy on alcohol. The unit also has an executive remit, and has developed and is implementing national programmes on anti-tobacco, AIDS, alcohol, drugs, nutrition and lifestyle programmes.
I am sure the Deputy will agree that the health promotion unit provides a very active and comprehensive range of effective health promotion programmes. With reference to the first part of the Deputy's question, I am still considering whether this unit serves the best purpose being attached to the Department or whether it would be better as an independent unit. I am looking into this matter.
Mr. R. Bruton: I welcome the Minister's undertaking to look into the independence of this unit. The World Health Organisation favours independence for such a unit. Does the Minister not agree that it is not satisfactory that we are falling so far behind on the “health for all” targets set by the World Health Organisation, for instance, in the area of heart disease and cancer? Would the Minister not agree that we need to set coherent targets for our health promotion unit so that we can judge their success in reducing factors such as smoking, bad eating habits and so on, so that we can achieve recognised targets in the area of improved health from this unit's work?
Dr. O'Connell: The Deputy will be aware that in another capacity I highlighted this matter two weeks ago and emphasised the need for the Department of Health to take these measures on board. I now hope to implement that for which I have been calling.
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