Minister says ‘lip service’ on public health must end

James Reilly launches ‘Healthy Ireland’ plan and says he supports ban on alcohol sponsorship by 2018

Minister for Health James Reilly  at the launch of the Healthy Ireland framework for action to improve health and wellbeing, at the Mansion House today. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Health James Reilly at the launch of the Healthy Ireland framework for action to improve health and wellbeing, at the Mansion House today. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Minister for Health James Reilly has said he’d “love to see each cigarette costing €1” so that people would “think long and hard before they inhaled long and hard”.

The Minister was speaking today at the launch of Healthy Ireland, a plan of 64 actions to improve health and wellbeing in Ireland.

A response to chronic illness and unhealthy lifestyle trends, the actions are to be implemented by Government departments, statutory agencies, community and voluntary groups and the private sector.

Mr Reilly said that for too long, Ireland had “paid only lip service” to public health initiatives and illness prevention.

He said if obesity trends were to continue, particularly in children, “we may well be the first generation to bury the generation behind us”.

Mr Reilly said he supported a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport. He said he would like to see it implemented, “before the end of this decade, I’d like to see it in 2018”.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said the association between sport and alcohol was “damaging for our young people”.

She said she was in favour of a ban, the timeframe from which should be in the “short to medium”.


Ambivalence
“I think we need to get rid of the ambivalence we have in relation to alcohol in this country, the price that is being paid by our young people is too high.”

On smoking, Mr Reilly said he wanted to follow Australia’s lead on unbranded cigarette packaging.

Holding up a sample pack, he said, “fancy attractiveness” must be replaced by “stark pictures” with just a small area on the bottom naming the manufacturer. He said he hoped to bring a memo to Cabinet shortly on the issue.

With more than 70 per cent of smokers starting the habit before the age of 18, he said: “I’m prepared to challenge the industry to prove me wrong that they are not targeting children.”

Minister of State for Health Alex White said his department could not tackle the problem of alcohol misuse by itself.

He said we would be “fooling ourselves” if we thought the problem could be addressed without some sectors being required to “modify their activities” or “look at their funding arrangements”.

On measures to tackle alcohol misuse, he said: “It’s a case of not being able to make an omelette without breaking some eggs.”

The launch was also attended by Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch, Minister for Arts and Culture Jimmy Deenihan, and Senators Eamonn Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe.


‘Obsessed with health’
Speaking at the

launch, HSE director general Tony O’Brien said there was need for a shift in focus from sickness and disease to prevention and wellness. “We must rid ourselves of an obsession with hospitals and instead become obsessed with health.”

Architects of the Healthy Ireland plan are the Department of Health’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan and director of health and wellbeing at the department Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe.

Its implementation will be overseen by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy, chaired by the Taoiseach.