A Minister and Ministry of Public Wellbeing is the medicine we need
As the Labour Party releases its health policy, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists is calling on the next government to establish a Minister of Public Wellbeing, along with a standalone Ministry to help improve health outcomes, achieve health equity, and relieve mounting pressures on the health system.
It is one of the key recommendations in a new ASMS report – Health Matters – Framing the full story of health – which argues good health starts well before the doctor’s office or hospital.
ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says our members, who are senior doctors and dentists working in the public health system are regularly treating preventable illness and disease which have their roots in social factors such as poverty, racism, poor housing, unhealthy foods, and environments.
“There are many positives in Labour’s health policy such as mental health support for school students, dental care support for those on low incomes and funding to reduce waiting lists, which will help address some of these social factors”.
ASMS argues that improving health and achieving health equity have been the aims of successive governments for decades but in many cases, we are no better off now than 20 years ago.
Sarah Dalton says, “a new approach is needed to realise the current government’s intent of placing New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing at the heart of government – and the approach must be driven from the heart of government.”
The report, which brings together a wide range of existing data on the social determinants which shape health and wellbeing, also recommends removing barriers to health care services such as GP and dentist visits, and adopting a ‘health in all policy’ which aims to have good health as an outcome of all policies.
Sarah Dalton says the report points out that up to a third of child hospital admissions in New Zealand are potentially avoidable and the majority are children from poorer families.
“The path to improved health means things like better public housing, a living wage and a system which does not put up racial or financial barriers,” she says.
Specialist workforce shortages are also hampering access to healthcare, resulting in patients missing out on treatment and worsening health conditions for many New Zealanders.
“It’s well past time for a big conversation about all the things that make a measurable difference to people’s health outcomes. Our health system is not accessible to a growing number of New Zealanders and is perpetuating unequal outcomes because in many cases it is treating the symptoms, not the causes.
“We need to be asking is this the country we want to be.
“We hope this report will send a strong message to government and political parties that there needs to be strong, long-term, commitment to addressing the startling inequities that are increasingly apparent in Aotearoa.
“Our future health depends on it,” Sarah Dalton says.
For more information contact:
Sarah Dalton, ASMS Executive Director
E firstname.lastname@example.org M 027 210 2234
Liz Brown, ASMS Senior Communications Advisor
E email@example.com M 027 405 5372