Friday 9 December 2016

Health is about environment, so tackling chronic diseases starts with energy efficiency

Denis Naughten

Published 15/06/2016 | 02:30

Cold, damp housing exacerbates chronic conditions in older people such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. (Picture posed)
Cold, damp housing exacerbates chronic conditions in older people such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. (Picture posed)

Cancer is a disease that impacts on the lives of so many of us, either directly or indirectly. The desire to see cancer and its impacts tackled is something that strikes a chord in us all. I was greatly struck by the findings in the report of the National Cancer Registry, published June 9, that show clear links between older people living in deprived urban areas with higher rates of diagnosis of cancer and lower survival rates. The question is how best to act - and how to coordinate that action, particularly when, as highlighted by Dr Harry Comer of the National Cancer Registry, the issue is very complex.

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It was immediately clear to me that there are strong similarities between this situation and that facing many of our older people - in particular the impact on them of energy poverty, which my Department is tackling through the implementation of the National Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty.

This is why the central action in the strategy is the Warmth and Wellbeing pilot scheme. The scheme, part of the Healthy Ireland Initiative, is operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the HSE public health team and is currently available to people over 55 in Dublin 12 and 24 who suffer chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and are in receipt of the Fuel Allowance.

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