Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said investment in new technology is needed to tackle health inequality on both sides of the border in the North West.
Ms McLaughlin made the comment after hosting a meeting between representatives of leading American pharmaceutical companies and members of the cross-border health promotion group, Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT).
Senator Therese Murray, the President of the Massachusetts State Senate, also attended the meeting. The Senator was in the city for the official launch of the North West Health Innovation Corridor, a new initiative designed to improve health and promote employment in high-tech medical research and the development of new technologies.
The corridor stretches from Sligo to Coleraine and involves representatives from universities on both sides of the border as well as the C-TRIC facility in Derry.
Representatives from leading medical firms, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Massachusetts Life Sciences Centre, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative also attended the meeting to share their experiences of how investment in health innovation helped regenerate the economy of Boston.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms McLaughlin said investing in health technology would create jobs and improve health outcomes.
“We need to start looking at technology options in a much bigger way in terms of health. We are seeing statistics about the high level of admissions to hospital amongst older people in particular as a result of them being given the wrong medication. Dedicated research could help reduce that and would improve health and make the system more efficient,” she said.
The Foyle MLA also said Derry is well placed to benefit from the opportunities presented by health innovation. “There are three major things that go in our favour; the high speed connectivity provided by Project Kelvin, the state of the art facilities at C-TRIC and the University of Ulster’s research centre. There is a growing realisation that we in the north west can be at the front line of this,” she said.
Ms McLaughlin also praised CAWT for its work in combatting health inequalities. “The meeting was a useful opportunity for CAWT to discuss key issues and concerns with Senator Murray and the pharmaceutical representatives and see how they dealt with similar issues in Massachusetts.
“What we have to do now is make sure the work being carried out by organisations like CAWT is supported,” she said.