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Experts address population health challenges

Media Advisory

May 20, 2004

Experts address population health challenges

How does the New Zealand health system compare with other countries? Are hospital waiting lists as long as we think? How can universities and communities work in partnership to reduce health disparities? These and other population health challenges will be explored by local and international experts at a Scientific Symposium at The University of Auckland's School of Population Health next week.

The sell-out Symposium will bring together academics, researchers and senior officials from the public health sector at the University's Tamaki Campus on Friday, May 28.

Head of the School of Population Health Professor Alistair Woodward says that as New Zealand's population profile changes, new disease patterns are placing increasing strains on health services.

"The scale of these challenges demands a fresh approach if we are to do better at saving lives and improving health. The School of Population Health is dedicated to providing the knowledge to control New Zealand's modern epidemics. To make headway we need a wide range of disciplinary skills. The scientific symposium is one way of advancing these aims."

Among the international speakers at the symposium is Professor Barbara Israel from the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, an expert in the area of community-based participatory research aimed at addressing health inequalities with partners from diverse ethnic communities.

Professor Israel, who will talk about health promotion, partnerships and community action, says that research studies and health promotion interventions are often not as effective as they could be because they are not tailored to the concerns and cultures of the participants, and do not involve them in all aspects of the research and intervention process.

"Interventions have often focused narrowly on individual behaviour change and not on broader social and structural determinants of health at the community level, and there is a need for more comprehensive and participatory approaches to population health research and community interventions," she says.

Leading population health experts from The University of Auckland will also present at the Symposium, including Toni Ashton, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Health Services Research and Policy, who will provide international comparisons to the New Zealand health system and rate its performance against other countries in such areas as resources, quality of care, waiting times and health outcomes.

"New Zealand rates quite well according to a number of measures, but there is room for considerable improvement particularly in areas such as training and retention of the workforce, and ethnic disparities," says Associate Professor Ashton.

Other topics that will be discussed at the symposium include:
* Population health challenges and opportunities in the international arena; * Population-based interventions in primary care; * Improving population health through better health care; * The relationship between researchers and policy makers; and * Challenges for researchers and practitioners in the area of population health.

Further information on the symposium and speakers can be found on: http://www.rhpennyltd.co.nz/population.htm

ENDS

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