For the first time comprehensive local health and well-being data has been compiled across Ireland.

This unique project is also making the information for all the health inequalities measures available for anyone to download to create charts and maps of health at local level.

The health inequalities gap between the most affluent and deprived communities is a major concern. However, national health information often masks local variations in health and well-being and its causes. To identify health needs at community level, Ireland and Northern Ireland's population health observatory is adapting two existing baskets of indicators, the English health poverty index and the Northern Ireland health and social care inequalities monitoring system.

The combined data from the Irish health poverty index and the all-Ireland health and social care indicator set will be used to monitor changes across the range of 82 indicators linked to the underlying causes of health inequalities: political, social, economic, environmental and health and social services issues.

Local authorities will be able to access this local knowledge via www.inispho.org/edata. This will help them to analyse relationships between measures at an area level, geographical variation in a single measure across the island (see map), profiles of a single area based on multiple measures, geographical comparisons based on multiple measures (see graph) and changes over time.

Supporting authorities

The data will support local authorities, the health service and partner organisations and be a guide for local and national action. The information also enables comparison between neighbourhoods and provides a national overview of health status at local level. Specifically, the local data can be used for local needs assessment and health impact assessment, planning and delivery of health and social services, monitoring broad progress on tackling health inequalities, national co-ordination of local efforts and raising awareness and stimulating debate about health inequalities.

The Irish health poverty index will be completed by the end of 2008, following the launch this summer of the all-Ireland health and social care indicator set. We hope the new all-Ireland data will assist in the development of a core set of agreed local health and well-being indicators that are collated and regularly updated across Ireland.

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