Social inclusion in the Irish health context: Policy and stakeholder mapping

  • Patrick O’DonnellEmail author
  • Diarmuid O’Donovan
  • Khalifa Elmusharaf
Review Article



Social inclusion is a complex concept, and its relationship to health has been widely debated. Across the European Union, there has been a move towards policies promoting social inclusion. Despite this, there has been a limited analysis of how the concept of social inclusion is operationalised in Irish policy. The aim of this research was to document and map the development of social inclusion policies in the Irish context. The objectives were to identify all the relevant stakeholders and policies and to describe the relevance of social inclusion policy in the domain of health.


We utilised a widely recognised policy analysis framework. We conducted a systematic search of relevant government policies, grey literature databases, statutory agencies and stakeholders in the Irish context since 2006. The researchers initially identified a total of 954 results.


The relevant stakeholders discovered were the research community, service providers, civil society organisations, policy makers and government, philanthropists and socially excluded people. Most policy documents included refer to one of two national policies created to drive social inclusion activities. Social inclusion was being operationalised in the context of health, but the relationship between policymakers and those planning and providing services was unclear.


The concept of social inclusion was being operationalised in the Irish policy context. A multitude of stakeholders were involved, reflecting the wide reach of this concept in society. Social inclusion was a particularly important concept in the realm of health, and in the primary care domain in particular.


Policymaking Primary care Social exclusion Social inclusion Stakeholders 

List of abbreviations


Chief Nursing Officer


civil society organisation


Department of Health


Department of Social Protection


European Union


general practitioner


Health Service Executive

NAP Inclusion

National Action Plan for Social Inclusion


non-governmental organisation


social exclusion


Social Exclusion Knowledge Network


Social Exclusion Unit


social inclusion


Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme


United Kingdom


United Nations


World Health Organization


Authors’ information

POD is a GP, Clinical Fellow in Social Inclusion and a PhD student at the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School. DOD is Professor of Global Health at the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences in Queens University Belfast. KE is Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School.

Authors’ contributions

POD, KE and DOD conceived the basic idea for this research. POD conducted early searches, returning to KE and DOD at regular intervals for advice. POD and KE developed the detailed plan for the conduct of comprehensive searches. Any difficulties with search process arising were discussed with KE at regular intervals. POD summarised all data found and presented it to KE and DOD for comment and feedback. POD drafted manuscript for publication that was commented on by KE and DOD. All authors have reviewed the final manuscript for submission.


No external funding was applied for or used in the conduct of this research. POD is employed as a researcher by the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Availability of data and material

Data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article, and in its supplementary information files.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

11845_2019_2060_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Area GEMS 3-026, Graduate Entry Medical SchoolUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  2. 2.School of Medicine, Dentistry and Bisomedical SciencesQueens UniversityBelfastUK
  3. 3.GEMS 3-009A, Graduate Entry Medical SchoolUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland

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