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Primary Care Top Of Global Health Agenda

News release
For immediate release


June 10, 2008

Primary Care Top Of Global Health Agenda

There are many lessons learned from the way 191 countries were able to negotiate their way to agreement and make progress at the World Health Assembly in Geneva according to Waikato Primary Health chief executive Shelley Campbell.

Selected by the Minister of Health to accompany Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor at the Assembly, Campbell worked alongside what she says was a very professional negotiating team led by the Director-General of Health Stephen McKernan.

She says after the experience she was left wondering why negotiations within the New Zealand health system regarding strategic and health priorities were not generally as successful as those in this much larger and more complex forum.

"At the Assembly people had a clear understanding that in order to get resolutions passed they had to develop compromises and work with delegates from other countries. Every decision required consensus and negotiations and give and take continued until consensus was reached."

She says the team had to be very cognisant of the different positions of individual countries and why they held those positions in order to be able to work with them to get resolutions through.

"It clearly showed the link between politics and health and the intensity of lobbying that was required to move things forward in that international forum."

Campbell says she also saw how highly regarded New Zealand was within this international group. That was demonstrated when all resolutions the New Zealand delegation put forward were passed. She doubts any other country achieved that level of success.

"New Zealand clearly has standing in this health body and our systems, policies and ways of doing things in the primary health area are recognised. There has obviously been many years of skilful work put in to achieve quite a significant reputation in the health field."

She says for someone working in the primary health area it was clear that the revitalization of primary health is where the focus is internationally.

It also put into perspective the work Waikato Primary Health does here in the Waikato region where programmes are created based on results of talking with communities and ascertaining need could be then taken on and developed in other countries.

"It brought home to me how much we can influence world health outcomes through the work and innovation we create in the local areas we serve."

Campbell says she has returned with many new ideas and with renewed confidence in the work that is happening in primary health in New Zealand.

"I saw clearly that primary health is not about programmes as a way of dealing with health; rather it is a way of thinking and a way of doing. I will be working with my team to put into effect some of those ideas locally."

The World Health Assembly is the engine room for the World Health Organisation. When countries accept decisions made at the Assembly they are committing to return home and weave the principles of those decisions into their domestic policies.

END

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