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Press Release

Press release

Building a healthier Ireland and a better health service

13 June 2011

The Health Research Board (HRB) today launched its 'Review of population health research and health services research in Ireland'. The review, informed by the thinking of leading experts, provides clear evidence on the greater role for research in improving the health of the Irish population and the manner in which the Irish health care system functions. It hopes to drive change by grounding concepts in the reality of data, explaining as well as describing the challenges and opportunities that we must all address in the coming years.

Enda Connolly, Chief Executive at the HRB said;

'The purpose of this review was to provide the evidence-based starting point from which all the stakeholders in this area can move forward in a co-ordinated, structured and well-focused manner. The review was undertaken with four objectives in mind:

  1. To establish a baseline description of current research capacity and activity in Population Health Research (PHR) and Health Services Research (HSR) in Ireland
  2. To assess the outputs and impacts of current PHR and HSR in Ireland
  3. To map the strengths and weaknesses in PHR and HSR in Ireland as it is currently configured and identify deficits that will require attention over the coming years
  4. To provide underpinning evidence for the development of an action plan for capacity and infrastructure development and for rational research investment in PHR and HSR.

There is no doubt that this is an in-depth, warts-and-all examination of Ireland's past performance and current capacity in these areas. However, the key fact to note is that all the stakeholders are committed to moving forward, and have already begun to take real steps to address the deficiencies noted in the report'.

Mr Jim Breslin, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health adds;

'The health service is Ireland's biggest business. Other businesses take seriously the need to understand how their organisation functions and how their systems might work more efficiently and effectively. It makes sense that our health service should be looking to adapt and apply findings from a structured PHR and HSR programme into health policies and health care practices. Put simply, it makes sense to keep people healthy and out of hospitals, while at the same time recognising that if they do need to use the health care system, it should provide the best and most efficient service possible'.

'The evidence is clear from other countries', says Dr Maura Hiney, lead author of the review. 'Investment in this kind of research can deliver real benefits for the well-being of Irish people and the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of the health services on which they depend. The on-going reconfiguration of the health care and higher education sectors, the government's Innovation Economy strategy, and the planned reform of national scientific research funding, all represent opportunities to raise the profile of population health research and health services research and highlight the critical role that research-informed health policy and practice should play in modern Ireland'.

Enda Connolly concludes;

'The HRB, in working with other key stakeholders, is driving change by providing evidence to feed the coherence of vision and commitment necessary to build population health and sustained innovation in our health services. As the leading investor in research that addresses national health priorities we have acted responsively to the changing contexts and needs of Ireland. We are committed to increasing our support for population health research and health services research, to accelerating the uptake of research evidence and to increasing the capacity of health professionals to implement that evidence.

In doing so our strategy is aligned to the cross-departmental Action Plan for Health Research 2009-2013 which is currently being implemented. This plan is integrating all health stakeholders in developing a road-map to a national coordinated, prioritised, focused and measured health research system.

The timing of this review is particularly important coming when governments, health professionals and service users are demanding more rigorous processes to ensure that health decisions are well informed and built on systematic and transparent processes for synthesis and interpretation of evidence. Its launch coincides with the Department of Health Public Health Policy Consultation Day which the HRB welcomes as a positive key step in the right direction'.

The reports can be downloaded directly from the links below. (Vol 1 is 1.1 MB, Vol 2 is 2.8 MB.)

For more information contact:
Gillian Markey, Communications Manager
Health Research Board
m 00353 87 2288514
t 00353 1 2345103
e gmarkey(at)hrb.ie

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