menu ☰
menu ˟

The role of communications in preventative medicine and health promotion: The Kilkenny health project


Wallace, Barbara;

Institution: Dublin City University. School of Communications
Subject Keywords: Communication; Health; Kilkenny health project; Community health services Ireland; Health promotion programmes;
Topic: Cardiovascular Health (Draft)
Chronic Conditions
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
Catalogue: Research and Evaluation
Type: Report
Region: Republic of Ireland

Mortality rates for coronary heart disease in Ireland are amongst the highest recorded in the developed countries which provide reliable statistics. It is the consensus of health authorities worldwide, that a health promotion programme, aimed at the population as a whole can effect a reduction in the risk factors associated with the onset of coronary heart disease.

The main objective of such a programme is to improve the length and quality of life. However, the probability of reducing health care costs through preventative medicine, is an added incentive, especially to a country such as Ireland which has limited public funds.

Coronary heart disease prevention programmes in countries such as Finland and the United States of America were said to have been successful in causing a reduction in the incidence of, and the risk factors associated with coronary heart disease. This prompted the appeal by the Irish Heart Foundation to the Department of Health to initiate a similar programme in Ireland.

The Kilkenny Health Project, the first programme of its kind in Ireland was set up in 1984. A baseline survey was carried out in County Kilkenny to be followed by a five year health promotion programme and a post programme survey. The effectiveness of the health promotion programme would be measured by the pre and post surveys and also by a comparison with a reference County, Offaly. In Offaly, there would be no health promotion between the first and final surveys.

The aim of this study is to examine the elements of a community health promotion programme, and in particular the aspects of such a programme where the likelihood of a successful outcome is enhanced by effective communication.

As a first step we examine theories of communication which are relevant to such a programme. Next we look at two models of coronary heart disease prevention programmes and also at aspects of public communication campaigns where failure to achieve the stated objectives of the programme was attributed to a lack of effective communication. One of the problems here is that despite the importance of health promotion, there are few comprehensive and adequately
researched programmes to act as a model, and none of these which are available is based in Ireland.

We then examine in some detail, the health promotion or education programme of the Kilkenny Health Project, to see how effective the use of communications was in making the population of Kilkenny aware of the existence and objectives of the project. This examination embraces the pre programme planning, the ongoing evaluation by postal surveys and an exercise in formative research through original field-work.

Finally we look at the results of a postal survey carried out in Kilkenny and in the reference County, Offaly, at the half way stage of the programme (two and a half years). This gives us an indication of how successful or otherwise the public health communication campaign was in communicating the project message to the population of County Kilkenny, and justifies making recommendations for future work in Ireland in public health campaigns.



Suggested citation:

Wallace, Barbara; . () The role of communications in preventative medicine and health promotion: The Kilkenny health project [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 14th November 2019].


View your saved citations and reading lists


Click here to view all the resources gathered from this organisation's website.