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Minister Byrne opens second National Drugs Forum with a focus on inclusion health

Today’s event, organized by the Health Research Board and the Department of Health, will build on the success of the first forum in 2018 and will give statutory, community and voluntary services the opportunity to share knowledge and discuss new approaches to the problems they face in responding to the drugs situation.

National Drugs Forum 2019 logo

The theme of the National Drugs Forum for 2019 is ‘Inclusion Health: responding to complex health needs of people who use drugs’. Inclusion health is an emerging approach to policy development, service delivery, and research. It seeks to explain the health impact for those living as part of a vulnerable and excluded population, and to work towards preventing and redressing the consequences of these determinants.

Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD said,

'While the term ‘Inclusion Health’ may be new these issues are not, but they demand a renewed focus. There are people in our society who struggle with health problems but feel isolated and cannot access the help and support they need. Our shared goal must be to reach out and deliver better health outcomes for these people and, in particular, to make our health and social services more inclusive for those in addiction who may also have other complex needs.

'Each and every participant, speaker and stakeholder brings their own unique perspective and considerable expertise to this important event, and I am confident this will be of huge benefit in building on research, policy coordination and service delivery for the future'.

Health and social interventions based on an inclusion-health approach target people who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness, drug use, imprisonment, sex work, mental health difficulties, or other adverse life experiences that have led to social exclusion and marginalisation.

Interventions designed to improve physical and mental health must look beyond singular risk factors, such as problematic drug use. They must respond to the multiple and complex needs of socially excluded populations who have common intersecting characteristics and adverse life experiences, such as childhood trauma and poverty.

A research programme based on inclusion health principles will increase awareness of the need for preventive and early intervention approaches, the consequences of extreme inequity, and the importance of structural interventions. These include housing, employment, and legal support in reducing exclusion and supporting recovery.

The National Drugs Forum will hear from two speakers who have made important contributions to the concept of inclusion health and the practical implications of configuring our healthcare and other services to meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations.

Professor Andrew Hayward is director of the University College London (UCL) Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care and co-founded the UCL Centre for Inclusion Health in 2019.  Doctor Clíona Ní Cheallaigh is the Clinical Lead of a pilot Inclusion Health Service in St James’s Hospital dedicated to improving access to specialist hospital care for socially excluded individuals.

Participants at the 2019 forum can build on this learning and ensure that inclusion health is a key strand in the synthesis of evidence and experience informing the development of effective interventions in Ireland.

Further information about today's event is available at the HRB National Drugs Library website.

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