Community Platform Press Statement: Six principles for an inclusive, equal and effective health policy

On Human Rights day 2016, 29 leading national organisations working against poverty and inequality point Ireland’s failure to deliver on the human right to health and wellbeing for all

The Community Platform, representing 29 leading national networks and organisations, today launched 6 principles for an inclusive health policy.

In its statement, the Platform deplored the failure of successive Governments to put in place the policies and resources to deliver on commitments made at United Nations and European level over nearly 70 years to deliver on the human right to health.

The Community Platform statement highlights the effect of the two-tier health system; the poor development of primary health care; poor housing welfare and education policies causing ill-health; an underdeveloped preventative health system and lack of community participation in health policy

Seamus Boland, Irish Rural Link, said:

“The current two-tier health system means that those without health insurance have to often wait for up to one year to access specialist treatment. For people living in rural areas, accessing specialist health care incurs extra costs of travel, accommodation and caring cost”.

John Stewart, Sign Language Interpreting Services added:

“Health outcomes for disadvantaged communities are significantly poorer than the general population.  For example, health services don’t systematically use sign language interpreters, resulting in lower health outcomes for Deaf people (1). Research in the UK points to evidence of institutional discrimination against Deaf sign language users (2).  There is no Irish evidence simply because no one has even looked for this.”

Robin Hanan of the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland, the secretariat for the Community Platform, said:

“Platform members see the tragic result of our current hit-and-miss approach to progressing health policy every day.  We are all familiar with the poor health conditions and wasted life chances from dealing with health policy simply as a matter of acute care without giving enough attention to prevention and primary care.  We are particularly aware of the impact of discrimination within the system, with longer waiting lists and poorer facilities becoming quite literally a matter of life or death. We also see the appalling results of poverty, discrimination, homelessness poor housing and lack of opportunities on mental and physical health

“We need a complete rethink of how we approach health policy, starting from the equal right to health and the right of people and communities to take part in framing the solutions and deciding priorities.

“The Oireachtas Committee on the long term future of the health services is an opportunity to get this right.  We cannot afford to leave the voice of the poor and marginalised out of this conversation.

“These six principles are the starting point for this discussion.”


Six principles for an inclusive, equal and effective health policy

  1. The State takes responsibility for delivering the right to a high level of health and wellbeing for all. All social, economic and environmental policies will promote this right by identifying and addressing the social determinants of health across all Government Departments and policy through undertaking health and health equity assessments.
  2. Adequate resources are available to develop a universal, publically funded healthcare system, free at the point of access.
  3. A fully functioning primary and community healthcare service is a core part of the health system and the first point of contact for most people.
  4. Everyone has equal access to high quality healthcare. This should be regardless of socio-economic status, gender, civil or family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community. There should be a requirement to pay particular attention to groups or sections of society where health and wellbeing is below that of the rest of the population.
  5. Everyone is able to participate in the design, implementation and evaluation of all health policies and programmes and be empowered to claim and enforce their right to health and wellbeing. Members of groups experiencing the highest levels of health inequalities and their organisations will need particular supports to achieve this.
  6. The State defines its responsibilities in relation to the health of people beyond its borders, including through:
  • pooling and allocating resources to health;
  • ensuring adequate investment in research and development; and
  • not harming the health of people in other countries (for example, as a result of pollution and climate change).

Download the Six Principles for an inclusive health policy

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