2014 PFIZER HEALTH INDEX FINDS MORE THAN HALF (53%) THE POPULATION BELIEVE HEALTH CUTBACKS HAVE HAD GREATEST IMPACT
Experts say that health needs to be a priority as we move out of austerity
Thursday 26th June 2014 - Results of this year’s Pfizer Health Index*, to be announced at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in Dublin later today, reveal the impact that years of recession and austerity budgets have had on people, and shows a broad consensus that cuts in health have had the greatest impact when contrasted with other cuts in social welfare, education, state pension and transport.
More than half (53%) of the 1,000 people in the survey nominated health as the area in which cutbacks have had the greatest impact, with health mentioned first, second or third by more than 9 in 10 (93%). This year the Index looked at the effect austerity measures have had on Irish people, their health and, with signs of economic recovery, where people’s priorities lie.
Almost 3 out of 4 adults (72%) believe that families with young children have been impacted by austerity budgets, with more than a third (36%) suggesting they have been the hardest hit. The impact on families with young children is sensed more by those aged between 35 and 49, essentially the core family life stage. Older adults were nominated as the group second most likely (47%) to have been impacted by austerity.
Economist, broadcaster and author, Mr. David McWilliams, and a speaker at the launch of the 2014 Pfizer Health Index, said; "Our economy is showing definite signs of recovery but we need to see sustained and increased growth. This study found that almost 7 in 10 (69%) people say they are still finding it hard to make ends meet in 2014. The challenge for public policy now is how to capitalise on the recovery in the economy and how to drive that further and faster. It also requires a mind shift in how we plan and prioritise public spending – after years of austerity, it is important that policy starts to move quickly away from cost cutting and towards investment."
Since 2010 the proportion of adults holding private medical insurance has declined from 44% of the population to 33% in 2014. The rate of decline was more pronounced between 2010 and 2012, but has slowed in recent years. Over the same time period, the number of people with medical cards had climbed to a high of 44% in 2012, at just under 1.6 million people, but has since retracted to 1.4 million or 39% of the population in 2014. As numbers with both private cover and medical cards has fallen, we see a growth in the number of the people who have neither private insurance nor a medical card; this group constituted 23% of adults in 2011 but has risen to 31% in 2014.
Professor Charles Normand, Edward Kennedy Chair of Health Policy and Management at Trinity College Dublin, said; "Austerity budgets have achieved some welcome results with cost reductions in the health system and greater efficiencies secured. We need to ensure that we preserve this but we also need to recognise the enormous reduction in the health budget and really this level of reduction is not sustainable any more without great impact on the health and social services. The growth in the population with neither private medical insurance nor a medical card is a key concern and shows that we do need to think about alternative models of healthcare provision such as universal healthcare."
When asked to assess their own personal health out of ten, where 10 is excellent health and 1 is very poor health, the average volunteered score is 7.9 out of 10. The number of people smoking is at an all-time low with 25% of adults (aged 16 years plus) currently smoking, down significantly from 33% in 2012.
Dr. Anne Nolan, Research Director, The Irish LongituDinal study on Ageing (TILDA), Trinity College Dublin, commented; "The series of austerity budgets has led to huge challenges for the public health system in delivering safe services with fewer resources. At the same time, the public health system is expected to meet the demands of an ageing population with increased levels of chronic disease. This is reflected in public concern about cutbacks to the public health system and increasing support for the provision of universal healthcare. While an improvement in smoking behaviour is welcome, evidence from TILDA suggests that problematic drinking has increased over the course of the recession, while physical activity levels have remained low. To ensure the future sustainability of our public health system, a greater focus on health promotion and prevention will be required."
Mr Paul Reid, Managing Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, said; "The Index is now in its ninth year and during these 9 years we have gone from boom to bust, and are now emerging from recession into economic recovery and hopefully sustained growth. This presents a new set of challenges for public policy and government strategies – what should be prioritised? Investment in healthcare has delivered results for Irish patients - in terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Ireland is now 81 years - this has increased a full four years since the year 2000 and is higher than the EU average and above the OECD average. As we move out of austerity in Ireland we must start to shift the focus away from cost cutting and on to investment in healthcare to fuel sustained recovery."
The Pfizer Health Index details the findings of a nationally representative quantitative market research survey of the health and well-being of the Irish population.
Published: 26th June 2014.