The warning came ahead of a two-day all-Ireland conference at Queen’s this week (Thursday and Friday, 1 and 2 October) set to be attended by internationally renowned experts who will share their knowledge on interventions to improve public health with students, researchers, practitioners and policy makers.
The Autumn School is being organised by the Centre of Excellence and its partner, the Institue of Public Health in Ireland (IPH), in collaboration with the HRB funded National Research Centre for Diet, Obesity and Diabetes, which is led by Professor Ivan Perry at University College Cork.
Professor Frank Kee, the Director of the Centre of Excellence for Public Health in Northern Ireland – a £5m centre opened last year under the umbrella of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC), has warned against quick fixes in drugs and medicines to improve public health.
He said: “Most of the major public health challenges facing us today require health professionals and politicians to act on a much broader front on the underlying determinants of ill health.
“Whether it be the rising tide of obesity and diabetes or the necessity for contingency planning during a pandemic, the challenges of today’s chronic diseases require systems-wide approaches and an appreciation of the complexity of the relationships between individuals, different sectors of society, the underlying social norms that drive behaviour and the role of the economy and politics in shaping the health of the population.
“There has never been a better time than now to consolidate and enhance what we know in this field. These are the very sorts of problems that requires systems-wide solutions, effecting change in the way we live our lives – and not just in what we put in our mouths.”
Dr Jane Wilde, IPH Chief Executive added: ‘Investment in public health pays dividends. Evidence shows the positive health and economic benefits that stem from effective public health intervention.
“We cannot tackle complex challenges such as obesity or alcohol abuse on an individual basis or by a pill. Sharing knowledge is vital.
“The wealth of international experience at the conference gives us a remarkable opportunity to link research to policy and practice and gain a clearer understanding of what works.
“The importance of this is recognised in our award from the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) in Northern Ireland, entitled Strengthening the all-Ireland Research Base.”
The Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety NI is also one of the partners in the Centre of Excellence. Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has stressed the importance of public in reforms of the health service and earlier this year the Assembly gave its approval to a new streamlined structure for health and social care. This includes establishing innovative organisations, such as the new Public Health Agency, to drive forward the public health agenda and tackle health inequalities.
The event is being funded by the Centre of Excellence for Public Health NI and an award from DEL’s Strengthening the All-Island Research Base programme.
More information about the Centre of Excellence can be found at www.qub.ac.uk/coe
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