Wednesday, 1 February 2017
Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016: Second Stage
I welcome the Minister of State to the House and commend her on the role she is playing in respect of her health promotion portfolio.
In the context of this Bill, it is important to focus predominantly on the issue of health promotion. I refer to and agree with the point Senator Colm Burke raised on prescription drug costs and the charge being allocated or ascribed to medical card patients. At a time when our population is getting older, is living longer and is in need of more complex and varied health care and medical intervention and given the economy is now more prosperous, through her good offices with the Minister, Deputy Harris, the Minister of State might consider how we could improve this section because Senator Burke is right. While the issue of over the counter and prescription drugs was raised on "Prime Time", we did not need such a programme to know we probably are a nation that is oversubscribing to prescriptions and to painkillers. That is a matter on which we also might have a debate in the House in order that we can have a holistic approach to it.
I wish to speak today on the issue of health promotion. There is an expectation and a view taken by some that it is up to the State or others to bring about behavioural change, be that in tackling obesity, on the issue of tobacco or on the issue of alcohol. There is a combined approach to be taken by the individual person in tandem with family, community, Government and so on. I note "Operation Transformation" is appearing on our television screens at present. As the Minister of State noted in her contribution, it provides a six-week window in which people focus on changing bad diets. It is not a fad or a six-week programme but is a life-changing experience that we need to promote and pursue. We have seen the significant impact that Tobacco Free Ireland has brought and I refer to Deputy Micheál Martin's smoking ban, Senator James Reilly's banning of smoking in cars and in playgrounds and the overarching plain packaging proposals to make Ireland tobacco free.
I listened to Senator Devine speaking about powerful industry lobbyists. I assure her that as a Member of this Seanad and a former Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, industry does not play any role in how I make my decision.