The conference provided an opportunity for the participants to present on an area of public health which is was of significant interest to them and in line with the six themes listed below:
Cross sectoral work on the social determinants of health
Improving life circumstances for all means working with sectors such as: education, social and regional development, employment, transport, and the built environment. The benefits of this work will include lives saved, but will be greater than this with added improvements to wellbeing, better mental health and less disability.
Strengthening prevention and promoting good health
The conditions most strongly related to health inequalities, such as cancer and heart disease are associated with smoking, alcohol, drug use and obesity. A large body of evidence suggests that health inequalities are likely to persist even if lifestyle factors are equalised. This is why policies and actions to modify lifestyle behaviour need to be complemented by work on the social determinants of health.
Giving every child the best start in life
Early childhood interventions are uniquely powerful in reducing lifetime disadvantage due to social and environmental factors. There is a clear commitment in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to early childhood development and many organisations are placing greater emphasis on the early years and putting in place new programmes.
Mental health and wellbeing
Many factors help determine a person’s mental resilience and ability to cope with adverse life events and stressful circumstances. These include wider societal and environmental factors as well as more personal influences such as upbringing and relationships. Positive mental health and emotional wellbeing are essential for a better quality of life and for a flourishing society. The need to improve levels of mental health and wellbeing is recognised internationally.
Developing healthy and sustainable communities
The health and wellbeing of individuals is greatly influenced by the communities in which they live. The creation of healthy sustainable places and communities should go hand in hand with sustainable development and the mitigation of climate change and have a shared policy agenda.
There is a close relationship between the challenges of climate change and the challenges of health inequalities, and both impact most on the disadvantaged. People on low incomes, the elderly and children are more likely to be affected by climate change.
Health intelligence: supporting evidence based policy and practice
Government strategies in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have identified the need to have a strong health intelligence base to inform the identification of need, develop effective interventions and monitor progress.
The Health Well is an all-island health information website which supports an evidence-informed approach to health policy and practice. It has been developed by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland in partnership with other health focused organisations across the island. Please visit the Health Well at www.thehealthwell.info