Today, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan T.D., welcomed the publication of the first Healthy Ireland Outcomes Framework Report.
The Outcomes Framework, published in late 2018, aims to monitor and drive the achievement of Healthy Ireland’s targets and performance indicators. It provides a structured approach to report relevant data which can be used to build awareness of the social determinants of health, to support assessment of the impact of policies on the agreed outcomes, and to monitor the effectiveness of the Healthy Ireland Framework and other interconnected Government policies that play their part in supporting health and wellbeing.
Improvements have been noted in terms of some lifestyle risk factors. Smoking rates have seen positive change since 2015 (23% of people smoked in 2015 vs 17% in 2019 and 18% in 2021). Levels of overweight and obesity have shown declines (39% in 2017 to 37% in 2019), while the use of cannabis (the most prevalent illegal drug in Ireland) has also shown a decrease. The percentage of adults meeting the National Physical Activity Guidelines in adults has risen from 44% in 2015 to 46% in 2019.
The Report’s findings also highlight including rising life expectancy (now 84.7 years in women and 80.8 years in men), an increase of almost 3 years in healthy life years, declining trends in incidence and mortality rates for many cancers and high levels of participation in screening and immunisation (although slight declines in participation were noted from baselines).
Other positive findings are the high and stable retention rates in education, with 91.2% completing the Leaving Certificate in 2018-19 and 82% of the population holding a Leaving Certificate or higher qualification in 2021. There has been an increase in the energy efficiency of homes (BER; homes achieving A or B BER ratings rose between 2018 and 2021). Unemployment has reduced, as has the proportion of people living in jobless households.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Minister Feighan stated:
“I am delighted to welcome the first Outcomes Framework Report, which is a significant milestone in supporting monitoring and evaluation of the Healthy Ireland Framework and Strategic Action Plan. It provides a snapshot of national health, and a clear overview of our progress in supporting public health and wellbeing since the Healthy Ireland Framework was launched in 2013.”
However, the Report also highlights some issues of concern, notably the socio-economic and health impacts of COVID-19, the impacts of high housing costs, pollution and climate change, and the need for continued vigilance in terms of reducing lifestyle related risks to public health in the context of an ageing population.
Minister Feighan continued:
“While the data collated in the report indicates significant progress in supporting health and wellbeing, it also highlights areas where we need continued policy focus and supports, in order to maintain and improve on the progress achieved to date. The Healthy Ireland Outcomes Framework Reports will continue to be invaluable in highlighting both progress and of any arising issues of concern.”
Many of the indicator measurements date to before or during the COVID-19 pandemic; the various impacts of this will be more completely captured by the next Report in two years’ time. It should also be noted that, as a result of the periodicity of data reporting for most of the indicators, the Report largely does not take into account the recent rise in the costs of living in 2022, which will be captured in the next Report.
The Healthy Ireland Outcomes Framework and Reports aim to support monitoring and evaluation of the Healthy Ireland Framework and Strategic Action Plan, and are also key components of wider Government efforts to monitor social and economic wellbeing through the Well-being Framework for Ireland, a PfG commitment to develop a set of well-being indices to create a well-rounded, holistic view of how Irish society is faring.