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Development Plan Aims to Boost Pacific Workforce


Development Plan Aims to Boost Pacific Workforce

Developing a competent and qualified Pacific health and disability workforce that will better meet the needs of Pacific people is the aim of an action plan released today by the Ministry of Health.

The Pacific Health and Disability Workforce Development Plan sets out four goals and 14 objectives designed to help create a competent and qualified workforce. The goals, developed through extensive consultation with Pacific providers, the Pacific community and District Health Boards, are to:
• increase the capacity and capability of the Pacific health and disability workforce
• promote Pacific models of care and cultural competence
• advance opportunities in the Pacific health and disability workforce
• improve information about the Pacific health and disability workforce.
The plan focuses on priority areas identified in the Minister of Health's Pacific Health and Disability Action Plan (2002) and recommendations of the Health Workforce Advisory Committee (HWAC).

The ethnic disparities in health status, poor health outcomes and low levels of access to healthcare among Pacific peoples suggest that mainstream health services have had limited success in meeting the health needs of Pacific peoples. New Zealand and overseas studies also indicate that ethnic-specific provider services are more effective than mainstream for improving access to health services for ethnic-specific population groups and that, within mainstream, racial concordance between patient and health worker contributes to better outcomes for the patient.

Developing the Pacific provider sector and increasing the number of Pacific peoples working as health practitioners and health professionals will benefit both mainstream and targeted providers. It will ensure that Pacific providers are well placed to utilise their better understanding of the needs of Pacific communities and to provide a comfortable provider environment consistent with the cultural values of Pacific health consumers.

"It is widely recognised that Pacific peoples are under represented in the health and disability workforce," said the Ministry's Chief Advisor, Pacific Health, Dr Debbie Ryan. "Attracting and retaining the health and disability workforce in an environment of increasing globalisation and international mobility is a challenge to the country as a whole, but particularly so for Pacific peoples who face a number of barriers."

Dr Ryan said the Pacific health and disability workforce was drawn from a Pacific labour market where people were less likely to have achieved the secondary and tertiary qualifications required for careers in medicine and health. Pacific families and communities often do not have good access to career/labour market information and consequently are not aware of the range of career paths available in the health sector and the potential to upskill.

As well, Pacific students often took longer of any ethnic group to repay student loans and this debt was often a barrier to beginning or continuing training said Dr Ryan. "This plan provides a framework for all organisations that can positively influence the pathways for Pacific peoples within the health and disability workforce."

The Ministry will monitor progress and provide six monthly reports on how the plan is being implemented.

Background Information

Why has this plan been produced?

This report completes one of the objectives and action points from the Pacific Health and Disability Action Plan 2002.

What does this plan aim to achieve?

This document focuses specifically on Pacific health and disability workforce development as part of the Government’s strategy to improve health outcomes for Pacific peoples and foster leadership and promote participation by Pacific peoples with disabilities. It outlines the range of existing initiatives and aims to provide a co-ordination mechanism and framework for existing workstreams as well as to propose new areas of activity to fill identified gaps

The plan aims to contribute to a competent and qualified Pacific health and disability workforce that will meet the needs of Pacific peoples. These goals have been broken down into 14 objectives with an associated action plan. The action plan includes activities to which the Ministry of Health’s directorates and other agencies have already committed.

This plan aims to increase Pacific participation and strengthen Pacific involvement throughout the health and disability sector.

Who is the audience?

This plan provides a framework for all organisations that can positively influence the pathways for Pacific peoples’ entry and dispersal in the health and disability workforce. These organisations are the Ministry of Health, DHBs, health and disability providers, education and training institutions and other organisations and individuals who have a role or interest in Pacific health and disability workforce development. It is intended that this framework will guide activity well into the future.

Who makes up the Pacific health and disability workforce?

The workforce comprises clinical and non-clinical health workers, managers and administrators, policy developers, funders and health researchers. In the disability sector, support workers have a key role.

However, data about the characteristics, numbers, locations and occupations of the Pacific health and disability workforce is scarce and in some cases non-existent. The New Zealand Health Information Service (NZHIS) collates information from professional bodies which issue annual practising and certificates and licenses. Little information exists about the many health occupations which are unregistered. Poor recording and inconsistent definitions of ethnicity have made it difficult to fully characterise the workforce.

What are some key facts about the Pacific workforce?

The document includes an appendix which details the estimated size of the health workforce (including gaps in data) which shows the estimated percentage of Pacific people across a range of categories.

Pacific peoples continue to be under-represented in the specialist health workforce and health professional workforce. The number of health practitioners of Pacific descent in professions is significantly less than the proportion of Pacific peoples in the general population (6.5% according to the 2001 Census). One percent of medical practitioners (in 2002) and 2.9 percent of active (registered and enrolled) nurses and midwives (in 2003) identified themselves as Pacific.

Despite the small representation of Pacific peoples in the health workforce, the proportion is increasing. For example, Pacific medical practitioners increased from 0.9 percent in 1998 to 1 percent in 2002 (according to the Medical Council of New Zealand).

Why are the Pacific health workforce numbers so low?

Barriers exist to Pacific health and disability workforce development. Some of these are not restricted to the Pacific population. For example, in an environment of increasing globalisation and international mobility New Zealand is constantly competing with other countries for skilled workers. Attracting and retaining the health and disability workforce is a challenge to the country as a whole. This issue is further highlighted by the pattern of migration among Pacific peoples.

The HWAC noted that barriers to Pacific health workforce development relate to the education system, overseas training and retention.

Who has been involved in developing this plan?

The plan was developed following extensive consultation within the Ministry and with external agencies, DHBs, Pacific providers and the Pacific community.


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