Kathriona Devereux helps launch Pfizer Index

The 14th annual Pfizer Index was launched on Tuesday 25th June 2019 at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Focusing this year on the importance of science in improving health, the findings of the Pfizer Health and Science Index 2019 were presented by Paul Reid, Managing Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, who was joined by guest speakers, Professor Charles Normand, Professor of Health Policy and Management in Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society at Science Foundation Ireland, and Pfizer Health and Science Index 2019 ambassador, Kathriona Devereux, science-engagement broadcaster.

Pfizer Health and Science Index 2019 Ambassador, Kathríona Devereux said; “As a child my ambition was to become a paediatrician or an astronaut but by the time I got to secondary school I realised I probably didn’t have the patience to be a scientist. However, I never lost that original passion, and, after several years working on science shows, I completed a Master’s in Science Communication in DCU to formalise my knowledge. As someone with an innate passion for science, it is encouraging to see that 82% of Irish adults would like to see more of a focus placed on science in primary school and that 92% have or would encourage their children to study science or computer science.”

The annual Pfizer Index is a nationally representative study of health and wellness charting perceptions, behaviours and attitudes of Irish adults towards health. For the first time, the Index has broadened its scope to include science, investigating the public’s perception of science and specifically its perceived role in healthcare. This year’s Health findings demonstrated that: • The average self-health scores have further deteriorated in 2019 by 6 percentage points, with lowest-to-date scores registered. The majority of people surveyed (63%) rate their health as 7 out of 10 or higher, with only 4% of those giving their health a score of 10 out of 10; • Three in five (60%) people suffer with a significant health condition, with high blood pressure the most commonly reported prevailing condition; • Depression and other anxiety related issues are more often claimed by women, those within the 25-34 category (23%) • Chronic pain comes first as having the most severe impact on the quality of life for those living with the condition • In terms of medical insurance levels, a quarter of people surveyed have traded down to cheaper premiums. Meanwhile, almost one in twenty (4%) have stopped paying for private medical insurance of the past year; • Participation in occupational workplace health and wellness initiatives continues to drive ahead with an increase in engagement of four percentage points to 19%; • 38% (2 in 5) have been for a health screening in the past year, with 31% (3 in 10) vaccinated as part of a public programme. Adult vaccination increased by 4 percentage points to 31%; • When looking at vigilance to ensure better health in later life, diet and exercise are the top two steps; more than 7 in 10 mention one or both. Sleep also features prominently with almost 3 in 5 (58%) claiming they have taken steps in this area.

Science in Healthcare Turning to this year’s theme of the role of science in healthcare; while the Index reports some encouraging results with 80% of people thinking that scientific advancement fosters a better society, a further two-thirds (66%) relate science and advancement to medicine. Interestingly, 3 in 5 people (61%) feel that lifestyle changes are more important factors in reducing the impact of illness and disease, with scientific interventions such as innovative medicines and diagnostics ranked lower by the public.

In addition, looking at general attitudes to science in society: • Only 21% studied science at third level and of those studying science subjects for leaving certificate, 68% choose biology with only 30% studying chemistry; 33% studying physics and 6% studying computer science • 82% would like to see more of a focus on science in primary school; • The vast majority (92%) of parents either have or would encourage their children to study science or computer science; • 69% of men, in the middle classes and 85% of those under 25 are particularly likely to feel that studying STEM affords a better chance of getting a job; • 34% (1 in 3) feel there are more STEM opportunities in Ireland than elsewhere.

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