Participant views

Irish Public Health Open Conference at Croke Park 13th October 2015

By Dr Erin Allison (North Dublin City GP Training Programme)

IPH Open Conference was an open door to a wealth of expertise, research, innovative organisations and inspiring individuals. The structure of 15min talks followed by 15mins Q&A was a great forum for debate and idea sharing. The importance of quality research followed by quality information sharing was a recurring theme.


Research does not always have to be viewed as seminal but instead can be presenting evidence for what many of us innately know to be true. For example, a walk in a leafy park is a more effective de-stressor than a stroll through a grey, busy built up area. Shirley Gleeson discussing the “Green Agenda” brought together evidence in support of green spaces to promote our physical and mental wellbeing, prompting me to integrate ‘green prescribing’ into my daily GP practice. Moreover, as worldwide urbanisation continues, governments, town planners, engineers and businesses need this knowledge to inform their work and protect the health of nations. These groups should also pay attention to NUI Galway’s mapping food outlets within the radius of Irish secondary schools. This information could form part part of the weaponry we need to fight the childhood obesity epidemic.


‘Tackling Health Protection Inequalities’ was a brilliant summary of a vast topic, highlighting the need for specific work centred on health protection groups most at risk. Climate change is exposing some of the world’s poorest, to yet more health challenges is a topic I think we will hear more of in the future. Practically, the knowledge that only 25% of Roma children in Ireland have completed the primary vaccination schedule will prompt me to be diligent and ‘vaccination minded’ in consultations with pregnant women and children and think how our GP practice can encourage uptake within our Roma population.


Dr Fiona O’Reilly shared how trainees of the North Dublin City GP scheme are sent to work on the frontline with marginalised groups, breaking down prejudice and barriers, ‘bringing medicine to the marginalised’. There were calls from a variety of disciplines in the audience to make this model compulsory for all GP training and extend it to their own training bodies – imagine if this were to be common place…could we challenge Hart’s inverse care law, placing health professionals and support to serve those who most need it?


Training and improved caregiver communication was a key message from Fergus Comiskey of Contact NI. “Zero Suicide Mindset” was an incredibly challenging presentation based on the logic that if the WHO state that suicide is a ‘preventable cause of death’ then our aim should be a zero suicide rate within our services. Furthermore, if we are devastated by a suicide the response should be to improve our services and not “we did everything we could”. “No-one should die alone, in despair, by suicide” Jan Mokkenstorm. I would encourage anyone involved in mental health to find out more on the zero mindset including what is meant by a ‘warm handover’ and challenging ‘fidelity to relationships’. I am motivated to encourage those in the frontline in our communities (teachers, clergy, sports coaches) to train in suicide prevention.


More opportunities for training to change our deprived communities was presented by YMCA. TATI, Talking to your children About Tough Issues is a course for parents of children aged 10-14 explaining what they can do to protect their children, emphasising the relationship between parent and child in pre teenage years based on McKay et al theory ‘the fear of disappointing a parent where there is a close relationship is the biggest deterrent to risk taking behaviour’. Often there are disastrous consequences of risk taking behaviours in deprived communities where drugs and alcohol are all too accessible for young teenagers and all too often have lifelong consequences. I was encouraged by this conference. Encouraged in research, encouraged to map the services in the area I work and guide my patients to them for practical solutions, encouraged that we are not alone! Health inequality is on the agenda – now is the time to close the gap! Presentations available soon at


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The Partnership for Health Equity currently comprises four partners: The HSE Social Inclusion & Primary Care directorates, the University of Limerick, the North Dublin City GP Training Programme and the Irish College of General Practitioners.


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