The Government’s declared strategy of shifting the emphasis in our health services from treating illness in hospitals to promoting health in the community is still not being backed by enough resources to make the kind of difference needed, said Vice President Dr. Chris O’Malley of IT Sligo in opening a Conference on Healthy Living at the Institute today.
“The strategic direction set out by Healthy Ireland is the right one, but achieving a real shift needs real investment to substantially increase the capacity of HSE and other services in the community,” said Dr. O’Malley. “We see a very real example of this currently here in Sligo.”
Since 2017 the IT has, in partnership with staff in the Hospital, run a successful supervised exercise programme for people released from hospital with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. This programme was originally set up in DCU as the Medex programme and is now being called ExWell. Over 300 people have taken part in the programme so far in Sligo, with very positive results, both for their physical health and for their morale. “The results of research undertaken on this programme, and feedback from the people on and professionals working with it, have been overwhelmingly positive,” he reported. Although this programme is substantially reducing the need for people with such conditions to return back into the health system, it is still getting no financial support from the health budget. “So far we have kept this programme going in part on the basis of voluntary input from key individuals. However, we can’t keep it going on this basis much longer,” he warned. “We will keep looking for funding to support this critical service, but there is no guarantee of success and it would make sense by now to have mainstreamed it within the Health system,” he concluded.
Dr. O’Malley, in opening the conference, welcomed the contributions from speakers and the number of people who have registered to attend, underlining the importance of Healthy Living as a prime focus for helping more people to be healthier for longer. Guest speakers include Prof. Donal O’Shea, clinical lead for the HSE on Obesity, Dr. Colette Kelly, Director of the Public Health Research Unit at NUI Galway, and Dr. Noel McCaffrey, Director of the national ExWell Programme. Speakers from IT Sligo included Dr. Kenneth Monaghan, who has worked with colleague Dave Roberts to develop a highly innovative new Mirror Therapy device to help recovering stroke victims; Dr. Carol Moran who has worked with Deirdre Lavin of Sligo Sports Partnership on sports as a driver of community development; and Ruth Kavanagh and Kevin Cradock who have been researching the impact of diet on improving health.
Over 200 researchers, professionals, lecturers and students took part in the conference which is part of IT Sligo’s 50th anniversary celebrations.