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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Ireland in world's top 30 for health policies, global study reveals

Ireland scores highest in anti-tobacco health measures
Ireland scores highest in anti-tobacco health measures

Ireland ranks 27th in a global league table of 151 countries measuring policies aimed at getting people to improve their lifestyle habits.

The study in The Lancet journal gives Ireland a score of 68.4pc for work in preventing conditions known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

These include heart attacks, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Overall, the global analysis of recommended measures to reduce these diseases found that while implementation is slowly improving, on average just over half get no further than being endorsed.

The current study is the first to analyse what progress was made in putting 18 policies into practice worldwide between 2015 and 2017. Ireland was ranked 28th in 2015.

That year, 193 countries committed to reducing premature deaths from these diseases by a third by 2030 as part of the UN's sustainable development goals.

Ireland scores best in anti- tobacco measures but less well in alcohol advertising or "fat policies".

Dr Luke Allen, from the University of Oxford, said: "The WHO has provided a road map to help governments respond to the challenge of reducing preventable premature deaths from non-communicable diseases, and we set out to see whether it's being followed in practice and, if not, why that might be."

The study found that overall, implementation improved from an average of 42pc in 2015 to 49pc in 2017, so the percentage of policies implemented remained just under half.

Some 109 countries increased the number of policies implemented. However, in 32 countries, progress reversed.

Warnings

In South Sudan and Haiti, only 5pc of policies were implemented in 2017, while Costa Rica and Iran had the joint highest implementation scores, at nearly 87pc.

On average, implementation improved for 14 out of 18 policies.

The most commonly implemented were the introduction of clinical guidelines, graphic warnings on tobacco packaging and surveys on national risk factors.

The least widely implemented were market-related policies. These included tobacco taxation, tobacco mass-media campaigns and alcohol advertising bans, as well as providing cardiovascular drug therapy.

Many countries took a step backwards in promoting physical activity through mass-media drives (on average, implementation fell from 61pc to 54pc).

There was also a backwards step on imposing restrictions on the sale and promotion of alcohol (implementation of advertising bans fell 10pc, from 43pc to 33pc).

The researchers analysed associations between the extent of implementation and seven political, geographic, economic and mortality indicators.

These included each nation's democracy index, World Bank income group and risk of premature death from NCDs.

The results suggest more policies were implemented in democratic centre-left countries.

The US performed poorly on market-related policies and came 50th out of 151 overall for the percentage of all policies it had implemented.

Seventeen of the bottom 20 countries were in sub-Saharan Africa.

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