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This webcast features Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health for the Public Health Agency, discussing the Director of Public Health Annual report for 2009. The report outlines some of the main public health challenges in Northern Ireland and highlights a selection of the invaluable work that has been undertaken at grass-roots level to address these.
Over the past 10 years, death rates from coronary heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease have decreased substantially due to reductions in smoking and other risk factors, earlier diagnosis and better treatment. More recently, a good uptake of new public health programmes has been witnessed – HPV and swine flu vaccination rates are higher here than in Great Britain, and a number of bowel cancers have already been detected through the bowel cancer screening programme.
While smoking and binge drinking rates have decreased and childhood obesity has stabilised, poor mental health and health inequalities remain major public health challenges. They also place significant additional costs on health and social care services and the wider economy.
In the report the three areas where action would have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of the public in Northern Ireland are highlighted:
• investing more in children, particularly age 0–5 years;
• reducing smoking rates further;
• expanding existing work to involve local people in designing and implementing programmes to improve health and wellbeing.
Delivering on this agenda will require the statutory, community and voluntary sectors to continue to work together – much has been achieved already, but there is more to do.