The choices we make and the lifestyles we lead can have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing.
This was the clear message in this year’s annual report from Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride.
Commenting on his report, Dr McBride said: “I know that quality of healthcare is not the only determinant of good health. It is for that reason that I have chosen this year’s report to lay particular emphasis on the lifestyle choices we make and the impact of these on our general health.”
The report highlights that people are living longer healthier lives, dental health among five-year olds and 12 year olds is improving and young people are less likely to become smokers. Dr McBride welcomed these encouraging trends while pointing to those areas which continue to cause concern.
Dr McBride continued: “I take great satisfaction in noting the continued trend towards improvement in the overall health of the population. However improving health is something that is not enjoyed equally especially among those living in the most disadvantaged areas and this is something government must continue to address.”
The Chief Medical Officer’s report highlights the health benefits of regular exercise, and offers new advice on safer levels of alcohol consumption. The report also deals with the disturbing problem of self harm and the damage, particularly to young people, caused by the use of new psychoactive substances.
Dr McBride welcomed the legislation in Westminster to counter the sale and distribution of these substances while at the same time welcoming legislation in Northern Ireland to allow for the banning of smoking in cars carrying children.
He commented: “The health of our children must continue to be a priority. I was particularly pleased that the Northern Ireland Assembly introduced legislation to allow the Department to ban smoking in cars. I look forward to its introduction which will protect children from exposure to tobacco smoke.
“I am also pleased that in 2015 we were able to introduce two new vaccination programmes to provide protection against different strains of meningococcal infection that can cause meningitis.”
Dr McBride also highlighted advances in research and development in Northern Ireland and drew attention to how precision medicine can be used to tailor treatments depending on a person’s genetic makeup and how the analysis of large annonymised data sets can be used to inform the delivery of health care.
Dr McBride said: “Precision medicine will allow each person to be treated as an individual, receiving the most effective medication for them and the treatments least likely to cause side effects. Patients in Northern Ireland have been amongst the first in the world to benefit from these advances and in recognition of this pioneering work Northern Ireland has been awarded a role as one of the five UK regional centres of excellence for precision medicine.”
The report covers a number of other important issues. It highlights the importance of taking folic acid if you are planning to get pregnant, the work to help prevent accidents in the home, risks posed by increased resistance to antibiotics and initiatives to improve the quality of care provided to patients in their own home as well as in hospital.
Notes to editors:
1. A copy of the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report is available to view online.
2. Advice on many of the areas covered in the report can be found on the nidirect website.
3. Media enquiries about this press release to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0575. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number on 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt
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