Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach insists health sector ‘not a black hole’

‘Sadly, as we know, our health service only ever seems to make the news for the wrong reasons,’ Leo Varadkar said.

Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne, head of health and wellbeing at the Department of Health Kate O’Flaherty, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris at the launch of the Healthy Ireland Campaign 2019 (Niall Carson/PA)
Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne, head of health and wellbeing at the Department of Health Kate O’Flaherty, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris at the launch of the Healthy Ireland Campaign 2019 (Niall Carson/PA)

The Taoiseach has insisted Ireland’s health sector is “not a black hole” as the department fights off a myriad of criticism.

Leo Varadkar was speaking in Dublin as he launched the 2019 Healthy Ireland campaign, announcing funding of 1 million euro to boost community engagement on health in every county.

“Sadly, as we know, our health service only ever seems to make the news for the wrong reasons, whether it’s hospital overcrowding, waiting lists, patients waiting far too long to see the specialist they need to see, or for the operation they need to have, and these of course are all very real problems, and we should never seek to play them down in any way,” he said.

“I feel that we should also make space to tell people what is good about the health service and there is quite a lot.

“This year for example the health budget is 17 million euro, the largest budget for health we’ve ever seen, and one of the highest in Europe per capita.

“Even though people may say it, health is not a black hole, the vast majority of the money is being well spent.”

Analysis by the Healthy Ireland Unit in the Department of Health shows that 60% of Irish adults are overweight or obese, with only one in three adults meeting physical activity guidelines or eating enough fruit and vegetables.

The campaign aims to encourage the public to make positive choices to improve their health and wellbeing across healthy eating, physical activity and mental health.

Unveiling the new campaign, Mr Varadkar said: “When you are trying to switch to a healthier lifestyle, it can be hard to know what to do and even where to start.

“The Healthy Ireland 2019 campaign aims to help you get the information you need to make positive changes to improve your physical and mental health.

“We are growing awareness in every county to make it easier to know where you can make that healthy start in your own community so you can eat better, exercise more and feel better.”

Speaking after the event, Health Minister Simon Harris said: “Promoting the health of our population to prevent illness is an essential part of our Slaintecare strategy.

“Under the Slaintecare Action Plan we will progress a programme to engage and empower citizens in their own health and wellbeing. The new phase of the campaign being launched today will help us get the messages of Healthy Ireland to an even wider audience.

“The work already under way through Healthy Ireland at national and local level, including through the growing Healthy Cities and Counties initiative, will be expanded as we seek to engage every family and community in improving the health of the nation.”

PA

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