The Irish health system has made a huge difference to population health since the foundation of the State, but it has not eliminated health inequalities. If anything, disparities in health have got worse. Health experts have known about health inequalities for many years. In 2001 the Institute of Public Health published Inequalities in Mortality which established the “pervasiveness and magnitude of inequalities in Ireland”. All causes of mortality in the lowest socio-economic group was up to 200 per cent higher than in the highest socio-economic group. A follow-up report in 2003, Inequalities in Perceived Health, showed inequalities in mental, physical and social health were “pervasive”.
The latest report from the National Cancer Registry, Cancer Inequalities in Ireland by deprivation, urban/rural status and age: A National Cancer Registry report 2016, which showed “strong patterns of inequality by deprivation”.
The report assessed inequalities in relation to incidence, five-year survival rates, treatment and co-morbidity for cancer patients in Ireland between 2008 and 2012. Statistically significant findings included a “higher incidence of cancer in more deprived populations, overall, and for stomach, lung and cervical cancers, and “stronger patterns of increasing incidence with increased deprivation for lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Patients from more deprived populations had lower survival rates for six cancer types: stomach, colorectal, lung, breast and prostate cancers, and melanoma.” The findings “point up striking inequalities that need to be targeted for improvement.”