Building health communities focus of international health conference

Minister Hildegarde Naughton, T.D.; University of Galway President Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh; Dr Martin Power, Health Promotion Research Centre, University of Galway Dr Verna McKenna, Health Promotion Research Centre, University of Galway; Professor Martin O'Donnell, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway; and Professor Breda Smyth, Chief Medical Officer and Professor of Public Health Medicine at University of Galway. Credit - Martina Regan.
Jun 22 2023 Posted: 11:42 IST

Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton T.D. today opened the international Health Promotion Conference at University of Galway.


The conference, Strengthening intersectoral health promotion action: Building healthy communities, brought together practitioners, policymakers and researchers to discuss current and future directions for strengthening the health promotion foundations that support and enhance communities and intersectoral innovations. 


Delegates heard from international and national experts on implementation, developments and challenges to building health communities and intersectoral health promotion, with the themes of discussion including youth and education, community, health service delivery, sexual and mental health, and addressing lifestyle for disease prevention.


The conference analysed the current landscape of intersectoral health promotion action and explored opportunities and challenges for further strengthening intersectoral engagement within and between communities. 


In particular the conference explored community assets, discussed the roles of people, leadership or structures in supporting the building of healthy, sustainable communities and examined innovative health promotion initiatives as examples of building intersectoral action.


Minister Naughton T.D. said: “We all play a role in protecting our health and wellbeing, but it is essential that individual efforts are supported by robust policies and guided by initiatives that help us all to live healthier lives. Programmes such as Sláintecare Healthy Communities are vital in addressing health inequalities and demonstrate the effectiveness of cross-government collaboration. We have discussed the next steps, looking at how knowledge can be translated into action in order to further improve the long-term health and wellbeing of the population.”


Chief Medical Officer and Professor of Public Health Medicine at University of Galway Dr Breda Smyth said: “It is well recognised internationally that intersectoral action is critical for health and wellbeing in order to address the determinants of health and improve population health. We need to work beyond the health sector, to make meaningful progress to improve the health of the population and I welcome the commitment and vision of all our stakeholders to this agenda.”


Gígja Gunnarsdóttir, Directorate of Health in Iceland, discussed her country’s experience“Health is a result of complex interactions between individuals and their immediate environment and conditions. The health sector is therefore only one player of many needed to promote and protect health and wellbeing of all people and the planet. Easier said than done but with practical, innovative, data driven approach things can move in the right direction.”


Professor Mark Gamsu, Leeds Beckett University, UK spoke on strengthening the voice of the voluntary and community sector: “We are at an important cross roads. Health inequalities in the west are certainly not reducing, and for some communities have worsened. The impact of the pandemic has shown us the importance of community led responses in partnership with the state. 


“We have a real opportunity to build from the pandemic experience and develop more collaborative relationships with people experiencing health inequalities - but professionals and the state need to look critically at the cultures they work in and how these need to change.”


The conference is the 27th Annual Health Promotion conference at University of Galway, co-hosted with the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive, and the Association for Health Promotion Ireland.


Full programme is available at



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