Press Releases

The Food-EPI Ireland Report

PRESS RELEASE 

Published: 9th November 2020 

From: School of Public Health, University College Cork                                                       

Ireland is falling behind best practice on measures to improve Irish food habits in some areas, report finds: 

  • First-of-its-kind report compares Ireland’s food policies to international standards.
  • Experts recommend no-fry-zones, taxes on unhealthy foods to subsidise healthy options.
  • Ireland is at international best practice in monitoring overweight and obesity prevalence in the population and occurrence rates for the main diet-related disease.

Ireland falls behind international best practice for implementing some of the policies needed to tackle obesity ​and other non-communicable diseases, a ground-breaking new report from University College Cork has found.

Its findings have led to calls for a reform of Ireland’s ‘food environment’ - the wide range of interconnected factors such as food production, processing, marketing, and distribution, that characterise our food system and largely determine our dietary intakes.

The first Irish Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) has highlighted how Ireland compared poorly with other countries when it comes to rolling out initiatives such as so-called ‘no fry zones’, school ​food policies, and measures aimed at reducing the marketing ​of unhealthy food to children in the media and online.

The Food-EPI Ireland study is led by Dr. Janas Harrington at UCC’s School of Public Health, and is the first of its kind to benchmark the Irish Government’s level of support for improving the healthiness of the food environment against international best practice.

The report was conducted ​as part of a wider European project, the Policy Evaluation Network (PEN) in collaboration with research groups from countries such as The Netherlands, Norway, Germany, ​Poland and New Zealand.

It compared the Irish food environment to international standards, and found that Ireland rates well in ensuring the public has access to nutritional information and key documents through freedom of information legislation.

It also found Ireland is also at international best practice in monitoring overweight and obesity prevalence in the population and occurrence rates for the main diet-related disease and its risk factors. Ireland also rated well for implementing procedures to support evidence-informed policymaking.

However, it found Ireland lags behind international best practice when it comes to: 

  • marketing unhealthy food to children
  • the implementation of ‘no fry zones’
  • the use of fiscal policies to support healthy food choices, 
  • providing support for companies to provide healthy eating options to employees
  • the roll-out of evidence-informed labelling for front-of-pack and
  • menu boards
  • the need for food composition targets/standards for processed foods. 

Four implementation gaps were identified relating to government policy on key aspects of the food environment:

  • a lack of government action on the introduction of targets for out-of-home meals,
  • failure to restrict the promotion of unhealthy foods to children on food packaging
  • no discernible progress towards establishing public sector procurement standards for food service activities to provide and promote healthy food choices,
  • failure to implement policies that encourage availability of outlets selling nutritious foods.

“The government needs to seize an opportunity to improve the diets of the Irish population, prevent obesity and diet-related non communicable diseases by investing in the kind of policies and programmes which have demonstrated success in a number of countries,” Dr Harrington said.

“The benefits are two-fold - aside from improving the health of the general population, these measures are highly cost effective, and in the long-run can help counteract the rising healthcare costs associated with obesity and diet-related non communicable diseases,” she said.

Five priority policy recommendations arising from the report calls for:

  • nutritional standards for schools including tuck shops, 
  • the establishment of a committee to monitor and evaluate food-related income support programmes for vulnerable population groups, 
  • the ring-fencing of tax on unhealth food to subsidise healthy options for disadvantaged groups in the community, 
  • the introduction of “No Fry Zone” planning legislation to prohibit the placement of unhealthy food outlets within 400m of primary and secondary schools,
  • the implementation of a comprehensive policy on nutrition standards for food and beverage provision in the public sector.

The Food-EPI is an initiative of the INFORMAS Network (International Network for Food and Obesity/NCDs Research, Monitoring and Action Support) and was conducted between January 2018 to June 2020 with a panel of independent and government public health experts. 

The expert panel consisted of 20 representatives from academia, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Safefood, HSE, and charity organisations. 

ENDS

 For further information, please contact Dr Janas Harrington j.harrington@ucc.ie

Master of Public Health Programme - Government's Jobs Stimulus package

PRESS RELEASE

From: School of Public Health, University College Cork

Published: 28th October 2020

Master of Public Health Programme - Government's Jobs Stimulus package

Overview

The School of Public Health proudly announces that the Campus-Based Master of Public Health Programme (MPH) will open for new applicants during the current academic year under the Governments Jobs Stimulus package. The new intake of students will complete first semester modules in a separate cohort and will then join the existing 20/21 cohort in the second semester.

The Jobs Stimulus package aims to help get people back to work, upskill workers and build economic confidence while continuing to manage the impact of COVID-19. The funding has been approved to support the provision of 11,597 places on short, modular courses together with an additional 2,555 postgraduate places. Please visit Gov.ie and the Higher Education Authority webpages for further information on the launch.

On the announcement, Prof. Ivan Perry, Dean of the School of Public Health said:

This is an exciting opportunity for those returning to the workplace, those in employment, the formerly self-employed and recent graduates who wish to contribute to Ireland’s response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the most significant public health crisis in over 100 years. The Master of Public Health programme will provide you with the knowledge and skills to address other major global and national public health issues, including the health and societal consequences of climate change, tobacco control and the global obesity pandemic."

MPH programme

UCC’s MPH programme aims to meet the increasing demand for highly trained public health specialists and is an internationally recognised specialist training programme in public health. The programme is designed to prepare graduates to investigate, evaluate and address public health challenges, whatever their professional background. The programme will equip graduates with the core knowledge and specialised skills necessary to make a real difference in public health. This is a full-time and structured programme, delivered over 12 months. There are now a wide range of career opportunities in public health as Ireland invests in public health infrastructure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and other public health issues.

To find out more about the programme click here.

Eligibility

Courses funded under the package will be open to returners to the workforce, those in employment, the formerly self-employed and recent graduates. All participants, with the exception of returners to the workforce, will contribute 10% of the course cost.

Eligible participants must have at least a level 8 qualification or equivalent prior to acceptance onto a course. Exact academic eligibility requirements for the MPH programme are outlined below:

  • All applicants will be required to write a 300-word statement demonstrating suitability to undertake a Master of Public Health.
  • All candidates are required to meet one of the following:
  • Possess a NFQ level 8 degree in a relevant subject area (minimum 2H1)
  • OR
  • Possess a NFQ level 9 postgraduate diploma in a relevant subject area (minimum 2H1).

Relevant subject areas are Biological Sciences, Medical and Health Sciences, Public Health and Social Sciences.

Eligible Applicants must also be ordinarily resident in Ireland and must meet the nationality and EU residency rules as aligned to Springboard as detailed here.

Collaboration

The MPH programme has developed and maintained strong links with the Master of Dental Public Health and the MA Health and Society programmes within UCC. Both programmes will also open for new applicants under the Jobs Stimulus package.

On the announcement, Prof. Ivan Perry, Dean of the School of Public Health said:

“The MA in Health & Society is based on collaboration with the Master of Public Health (MPH) in UCC's School of Public Health. This is an exciting collaboration between two academic programmes focused on the societal determinants of health and wellbeing, both of which are now open for new applicants under the Governments Jobs Stimulus package."

Don Ross, Department of Philosophy UCC, said:

“The importance of the MA in Health and Society lies in its multidisciplinary nature. By welcoming students from a variety of medical, philosophical, and social science backgrounds, it allows for a diverse group to learn to make a difference in the practice and management of health—something we all understand the significance of today.”

School of Public Health

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