Wednesday 24 April 2019 11:12:08 AM

Effective Early Intervention Essential For Public Health
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Early intervention to prevent disease, prolong life and promote health is a fundamental cornerstone of effective public health practice and essential for improving the general health of the public.

That is the message from the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) ninth annual Director of Public Health report launched today, [Thursday 8 November 2018], at the Joint Public Health Annual Conference in Belfast.

Tying in with the theme of the conference ‘Early intervention for life’, the report does not simply refer to ‘early years’ intervention; but to interventions at an early age or at an early stage, for example an early diagnosis of disease.

Dr Adrian Mairs, Acting Director of Public Health, PHA, said: “The earlier action is taken to prevent or resolve a problem the better the outcome. In more recent decades, governments and policy makers across the globe have increasingly recognised the need to intervene early, both early in life and early in the stage of disease, to effectively improve the public’s health and wellbeing.

“The benefits of early intervention are numerous and the traditional model of treating problems as they arise is now too costly to our health service and detrimental to the health and social wellbeing of our population. It is vital that as a society we recognise and value the importance of early intervention, and prevention, programmes.”

Today’s joint Public Health Annual Conference – hosted by the PHA, the Health Service Executive, the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, the Department of Health and the Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland – is focusing on early intervention across all stages of life for the population across the island of Ireland.

This joint event aims to raise the profile of public health research, interventions and innovation and provide an opportunity to participate in workshops showcasing the early intervention approaches that are currently underway across the island of Ireland.

Early intervention is by no means a modern undertaking – one of the earliest examples dates back to the 1800’s when English physician John Snow removed the handle from the Broad Street water pump and stopped a cholera outbreak in its tracks. A more recent example of a high-profile early intervention campaign was the ‘back to sleep’ campaign of the early 1990’s when parents were urged to change the sleeping position of babies, which resulted in dramatic decreases in the number of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) cases.

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of the Research and Development Division at the PHA, commented: “Waiting for problems related to health and social care to occur, treating those problems when they become apparent, and then hoping for a successful outcome is not a satisfactory strategy. Evidence highlights the economic benefits of early intervention which can reduce or prevent the need for a range of costly and complex remedial interventions and recognises that too much reliance is placed on late intervention which tends to be more costly and sometimes less effective.”

“The PHA works in partnership with regional and local government, health and social care professionals, researchers, communities and the public to deliver on key government priorities that support the principles of prevention and early intervention through a broad range of projects.

“This Director of Public Health report provides a brief snapshot of some of this work undertaken in 2017 including programmes to give children the best start in life, such as the Breastfeeding Welcome Here and Smokebusters schemes, population interventions to detect and protect from ill health at an early stage, such as the human papillomavirus vaccination and newborn blood spot screening programmes, and the development of safe high quality healthcare services to allow early diagnosis and treatment, including effective stroke services.”

The full Director of Public Health report can be found on the PHA website at: