Main Stakeholders gather for Making Life Better conference


A conference to discuss the overarching policies and actions needed to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities for the people of Northern Ireland has drawn almost 200 participants from across the region.

The impact of economic factors on health and wellbeing, as well as reframing the conversation around what are the determinants of health were just two topics under the spotlight at the Making Life Better (MLB) – Creating the Conditions for Collaboration Conference. The event was organised by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Department of Health.

As part of the day-long event a range of stakeholders from statutory and non-statutory sectors gathered to facilitate learning, and encourage partnership working and cross-collaboration. The event was also used to launch a brand new Making Life Better ‘network’.

Neil Gibson, Chief Economist, Ireland, EY, said: “Health is identified as citizens’ number one priority in surveys across the world and there is a growing acknowledgment that a healthy workforce helps to deliver a more successful economy. However, much of the economic debate around health and wellbeing has focussed on the rising cost of delivering care and how the tax base is struggling to keep pace, rather than looking at ways to improve outcomes. Events like today’s help shed light on these issues and are invaluable in bringing together economists and healthcare professionals to discuss what innovative solutions can be deployed to make meaningful change. Only through close collaboration with all stakeholders, including government, citizens and businesses, will Northern Ireland’s healthcare outcomes improve.”

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, said: Health and wellbeing is largely influenced by our social, economic and physical environment. These factors have a significant influence in how we live and the choices and opportunities we have. The Making Life Better framework aspires to create the conditions for individuals, families and communities to take greater control over their own lives and be enabled and supported to lead healthy, active lives.

“This is a huge challenge requiring us to work together across government, the voluntary sector, business and communities to address factors that impact on health and wellbeing, locally and regionally. That is why I am delighted to launch the Making Life Better Network which will help ensure better collaboration across organisations and sectors and aid in delivery of the strategic objectives of the framework.”

Dr Adrian Mairs, Acting Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: "This conference provides meaningful new opportunities for engagement and shared learning. If we are to achieve a healthier Northern Ireland it is important that everyone with a vested interest has an input and a voice. Collaboration is crucial to strengthen partnerships and facilitate cross-sectoral, multi-agency collaborative approaches to health and wellbeing and realise our long term ambition.”

Making Life Better, published in June 2014, is the Northern Ireland Executive’s 10-year overarching strategic framework for Public Health. It is believed that achieving a healthier Northern Ireland hinges largely on what is done collaboratively through both policy and practice to influence the wide range of factors that influence lives and choices. The framework is not just about actions and programmes at government level, it also provides direction for work at both regional and local levels with public agencies, including local government, local communities and others working in partnership.

Parallel masterclass sessions covering each of the six Making Life Better Themes were held for participants. The conference was also used by the PHA to announce a brand new MLB seminar series, starting in autumn 2019, covering a diverse range of subject areas including: giving every child the best possible start in life; addressing wellbeing as part of palliative care; the professional development of people working within the wider remit of public health; and exploring changes in life expectancy.

Dr Mairs concluded: “It is only through strengthened co-ordination and partnership working in a whole system approach, that the Making Life Better framework can allow individuals and communities to take control of their own lives, and move towards a vision for Northern Ireland where ‘All people are enabled and supported in achieving their full health and wellbeing potential’.”

Notes to the editor

The Six Making Life Better Themes are:

Theme 1: Giving Every Child the Best Start

Theme 2: Equipped Throughout Life

Theme 3: Empowering Healthy Living

Theme 4: Creating the Conditions

Theme 5: Empowering Communities

Theme 6: Developing Collaboration