I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 165 together.
Health and well-being are not evenly distributed across society. There are socially excluded groups who experience extreme health inequalities. Such groups include Travellers, homeless people, refugees and asylum seekers and people with addiction issues. Inequalities in health are reflected in the mortality and morbidity rates of the population. Rates of chronic diseases are another indicator of health inequalities. A social gradient is also apparent in mental health. Reducing health inequalities can delivery real benefits for society and for future generations. It requires interventions to address the social determinants of health and to provide integrated and comprehensive healthcare services.
The health status of Travellers' is documented in the landmark All Ireland Traveller Health Study, published in 2010 and funded by the Department of Health.
The Department of Health, in conjunction with the HSE, supports a range of programmes to improve the health status of Travellers.
- primary healthcare projects, counselling services, family support programmes and men's health projects; dedicated public health nurses and related staff;
- mental health promotion and suicide prevention services provided in a culturally sensitive manner, to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.
The Department and the HSE participate in various official structures which monitor the provision of healthcare services for Travellers. These include the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy Steering Committee and the Traveller Health Advisory Forum. The Department's Healthy Ireland Network also has Traveller representatives.
The Department convened a workshop on Traveller health needs in May, 2018. This had representation from various policy units in the Department of Health and from Community Healthcare Organisations within the HSE. There was also representation of Traveller organisations, including Pavee Point, Irish Traveller Movement, National Traveller Mental Health Service, Traveller Counselling Service and National Traveller Women's Forum. This workshop reviewed the health needs of Travellers and assessed the policy responses and services being provided, the Department is committed to ongoing engagement with Traveller organisations to address their health needs.
As Minister with responsibility for health promotion and social inclusion, I am very aware of the health inequalities experienced by Travellers. Significant measures have been undertaken across the health service to address these inequalities, as outlined above, and there is ongoing and extensive engagement with Traveller organisations in this regard. I am satisfied that this is the most appropriate and effective approach to improving Traveller health.