Country profile

Northern Ireland constitutes one of the four countries of the United Kingdom, and counts a population of around 1,8 million. Northern Ireland is self-governing, but has devolved government with the UK through the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly.

Administratively, Northern Ireland is divided into 26 districts with local governments with relatively restricted functions. The local governments are not responsible for health and social care, which instead are handled by the Health and Social Care Board. The Board is responsible for the administration of the public health and other social care services. The Health Department, under the Northern Ireland Executive, is responsible for the funding of these services. Health and social services are offered through a universal system, and is free to citizens. In comparison to the rest of the UK, social care is also included in this system.


Policy responses

The public health green paper “Well into 2000 – A Positive Agenda for Health and Well Being” produced by the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety in 1997 was the first to highlight the importance of addressing health inequalities in Northern Ireland. Further focus on health inequalities in Northern Ireland has been strongly influenced by the commitments to health inequalities made in the UK.
There is a good monitoring and evaluation in place in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, the establishments of entities such as the Public Health Agency, which core mission is to tackle health inequalities, is proof of the general effort this address this issue. In particular Northern Ireland excels in taking an inclusive approach to cross-sectoral efforts. This results in fostering local partnerships and producing actions specifically tailored to local conditions.

Despite these efforts, the problem of health inequalities still exists, and is further impacted by the economic crisis. Nevertheless, initiatives to tackle health inequalities remain on the political agenda, and new policy responses are planned, including an obesity framework and a mental health policy, which are both still in developments. According to experts, real change will rely on cross-government action with a joint supporting budget, along with an integrated and evidence-based framework on how to address the issue.
An overview of policy responses addressing health inequalities in can be found in our Policy Database.


Good practices

An overview of projects and initiatives that are currently taking place or that have successfully been finalized, and that are addressing health inequality issues, can be found in our Project Practice Database.

Key actors

Please find below an overview of key actors in Northern Ireland working on health inequality issues:

  • Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network


Are you aware of any other key actors that should be added to this list?
Please let us know!


Key resources

Please find below an overview of relevant documents addressing health inequality issues in Northern Ireland. Further publications can be found in our Publications Database.


Are you aware of any other key resources that should be added to this list?
Please let us know!


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