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Pandemic delays decision on stagnant Healthy Ireland Council

Three years on from the last meeting of the Healthy Ireland Council, the Department of Health has yet to make a decision on its future.

The first Healthy Ireland Council was appointed for three years in May 2014. The Government said its plan was to establish a new council, but this has not transpired.

The former council was described by the Department as “a multi-stakeholder national forum” with 35 members that sought to connect and mobilise the wider community with the Government’s flagship public health campaign, Healthy Ireland. It was chaired by former Ireland rugby international Mr Keith Woods.

This month, a Department spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that a decision on the future of the council was due soon, but the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed matters.

“A new Healthy Ireland Council has not yet been established,” the spokesperson told MI.

“This will be considered in the context of planning for the next phase of implementation of the Healthy Ireland Framework. This planning work is underway but somewhat delayed due to the impact of Covid-19 on the overall work programme of the Department.”

In May, this newspaper reported that the annual Healthy Ireland survey conducted on behalf of the Department was “currently suspended” because of the pandemic.

The Department’s spokesperson added that “the main Covid-19-related work underway in the Healthy Ireland programme in the Department of Health has been in the development, along with the HSE and other cross-Government partners, of an initiative to support mental health and wellbeing during Covid-19.

“A new online resource at gov.ie/together offers advice to help people cope at home and will promote the mental health supports and resources available on the HSE’s YourMentalHealth.ie.”

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