New ‘health innovation district’ aims to improve wellbeing in D8

One in three people in the area have long-term health challenge, report finds

Mary Day, CEO of St James’s Hospital, and Orla Veale, project lead for Smart D8. Photograph: Shane O’Neill/Coalesce

Mary Day, CEO of St James’s Hospital, and Orla Veale, project lead for Smart D8. Photograph: Shane O’Neill/Coalesce

 

A new initiative in aiming to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Dublin 8 through innovation and collaboration.

Smart D8 will see locals and community organisations joining research, health, industry and educational institutes to innovate for better health outcomes for people living in the area.

The creation of a health innovation district in the area, that will provide a focal point for innovators working to develop product, service or technology solutions, is a key element of the programme launched by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris on Wednesday.

Research shows that one in four Dublin 8 residents accessed mental health supports in the last two years, and one in three have a long-term health challenge.

Groups interested in participating in Smart D8 can respond to the first call for pilot projects, which will focus on the impact of Covid-19, mental health and population health.

Speaking at the launch, Austin Campbell of the Robert Emmet Community Development Project and the Community Organisations and Residents Network (CORN), said Dublin’s southwest inner city is an “anomaly”.

“It’s full of strong characters and it’s got a strong sense of identity and cultural heritage. It’s got very strong stakeholders in the area . . .the area is full of potential.”

Dereliction and lack of green space

However, Mr Campbell added that one fifth of people in the area can’t numerically understand an electricity bill. “There is a high level of dereliction and an over-concentration of vulnerable populations, a relative lack of green space compared to other areas.

“These things only occur at that sort of frequency in an area where community members can’t effectively express themselves.”

He added that Robert Emmett CDP and CORN aim to empower the community, and Smart D8 can help achieve this.

Local GP and the HSE’s national director of quality improvement, Dr Philip Crowley, said health authorities need to partner with local communities to combat negative health outcomes and inequality.

“The [medical card patients lack of] access to secondary care is a real problem, it is very, very unequal.

“Minority groups experience additional obstacles to healthcare, and we need targeted approaches to tackle those.”

Peer-led support, early years and adult education and job opportunities are also important in improving wellbeing, according to Dr Crowley.

He added that the literature shows that community partnerships such as Smart D8 have improved health outcomes in other countries.

“We need to design interventions together, we don’t need experts coming with external expertise, we need community expertise [AS WELL].”

Smart D8 project leads include The Digital Hub, St James’s Health Campus , Dublin City Council and Smart Dublin.

People interested in taking part can visitsmartdublin.ie/smart-districts/smart-d8/.