Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has today (Thursday) established and held the first meeting of a new Women’s Health Taskforce. The Taskforce will be led by the Secretary General of the Department of Health, Jim Breslin, and Peggy Maguire, the Director General of the European Institute for Women’s Health, in partnership with the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
Speaking after attending the first meeting Minister Harris said:
“This is a significant step forward for women’s health in Ireland."
“There are challenges and the last year has given particular focus to that. We also know we need to redouble our efforts to drive implementation forward on key strategies."
“We can achieve a lot by working together, by listening to women, by being open to new ideas, by connecting policy, implementation and experience to make service improvements."
“Our ambition is high – but our approach is also powerful - we have a great mix of people in the room, we have deep expertise in collaborative policy making led by my department, and we have the right focus by setting ourselves the challenge to both improve health outcomes for women and also women’s experience of healthcare and health services in Ireland – because both matter.”
At its first meeting, the Taskforce agreed as its first action to lead a large-scale consultation with women in Ireland to hear their experiences of and solutions for the health system.
The Taskforce will also examine a wide range of issues impacting women’s health outcomes in Ireland and to work on these on a phased, prioritised basis. Topics under consideration include: disadvantage and its impact on health outcomes, women’s cardiac health, women’s physical activity and wellbeing, women’s neurological health particularly in later life, women’s mental health, maternal health and others.
Jim Breslin, Secretary General of the Department of Health commented:
“This department wants to lead the way. We have such a strong foundation to build on: Healthy Ireland, the Maternity Strategy, the National Strategy for Women and Girls, the Sexual Health Strategy, the introduction of termination of pregnancy services and our recent work to improve sexual assault services."
“Sláintecare puts the use of evidence and citizen engagement at the heart of the health reform process. Within the Taskforce I'm particularly delighted that we have Peggy Maguire - a European leader on women's health - as Co-Chair and the National Women's Council of Ireland as active partners, building on the recent work we have undertaken together."
In support of the first meeting, the National Women’s Council of Ireland today published an evidence base on women’s health which synthesises the available data.
Director, Orla O’Connor, who is a lead partner in the Taskforce welcomed its establishment saying:
“the National Women’s Council of Ireland has made the case for strong, concerted action on Women’s Health and we welcome the response from the department and the support from the Minister. It will be crucial that as a new Taskforce we show the leadership on women’s health that women in Ireland have been looking for.”
The Taskforce is an opportunity to:
- act on the evidence of gender inequality in health and improve health outcomes
- meet women’s expectations for the care and services they receive
- meet the commitments in the National Strategy for Women and Girls
- demonstrate the department’s capacity to collaborate internally and outwardly with women, professionals, academics and others to develop effective policies
- respond to Recommendation 2 of the Report of the Scoping Inquiry into CervicalCheck by Dr. Gabriel Scally that, "the Minister for Health should give consideration to how women’s health issues can be given more consistent, expert and committed attention within the health system and the Department of Health”
The Taskforce will meet every 4-6 weeks to progress its work.
It will be an inclusive process and details of how to get involved at each stage will be available on: Women's Health Taskforce.