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The Askeaton Investigation and the failure of Irish health information systems

Frank Houghton, Marian Gleeson, Kevin Kelleher


Sporadic concerns over animal health problems have been voiced in north county Limerick since the late 1980s. This issue came to the fore in late 1994 when local concerns developed to encompass human health in the area. The Mid- Western Health Board responded by attempting to investigate the health status of the local population in an effort to identify possible pollution related illnesses. Fourteen studies were initiated but several of the studies proved unfeasible given the limitations of the computerised health information systems, or had to completed by hand or interview. This investigation highlighted the almost total failure of Irish health information systems to respond to any form of in-depth analysis of population health status. This proved costly both financially and in terms of the delay that ensued, which allowed fear and concern to spread. As alarm escalated the number of conditions residents felt should be investigated increased. The geographical coding of all health information below county level, at least to DED level and ideally to point location is the most basic reform necessary for population health surveillance and investigation

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