Evidence based strategies and 'population health approach' for healthy ageing population
This latest HSE report shows that in the past 10 years the average life expectancy for both men and women in Ireland has increased by three years. At the same time our lack of awareness about the health and cost implications of our dietary, alcohol and tobacco intake could potentially threaten our medical services into the future.
The report highlights the need for joint inter-departmental and agency approaches to tackling the diverse nature of health determinants and to improve the health of the Irish population. (A report by the OECD on member country healthy ageing policies, published in February 2009, echoes these recommendations). www.olis.oecd.org/olis/2009doc.nsf/linkto/DELSA-HEA-WD-HWP
According to the HSE research causes of ill health and obesity could be reduced by using evidence based strategies, such as those measures used to reduce the number of smokers. For example; smoking is a major factor in chronic lung disease. Increasing taxes has been shown to be the most effective policy to reduce smoking. The evidence-base shows that a 10% price increase could affect a 4% reduction in adult smoking prevalence which would result in a reduction in the number of smokers.
The research highlights falls as the leading cause of fatal injuries in older people. It suggests that falls can be reduced by a 'population health approach' with multi-agency involvement in the prevention of falls and care of older people. There are a number of priority areas where action should be taken to enable people to live healthier and more fulfilled lives into old age. These include the 'population health approach' which focuses on the health of the whole population, not just the elderly or sick, while also recognising the role of individuals and communities to achieve the best health outcomes.
Some key findings relating to healthy ageing and lifestyle choices include:
- The occurrence of overweight and obesity in Ireland is higher than most countries in the EU
- While some aspects of the Irish diet have improved, it is of concern that consumption of fats and salts remain high
- Over one fifth of Irish adults report taking no physical activity
- While 29% of Irish adults are current smokers, the rate is higher in younger people and those in lower social class groups. In adults, males have higher smoking rates but among children, more females smoke
- Ireland is one of the highest consumers of alcohol in Europe. A higher proportion of Irish adults report binge drinking compared to the EU population.