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Striving for social justice in health care

Media release
10 September 2008

Striving for social justice in health care

Progress in creating a fair and comprehensive system of primary health care in New Zealand will be scrutinised at a high-powered symposium at The University of Auckland this week (11-12 September).

Physicians, GPs, nurses and other practitioners along with researchers, funders, planners and policymakers will debate how to widen access to health care offered in the community. Some 130 are attending.

The symposium theme, “’Health for all’ in Aotearoa: How can we achieve the vision?”, marks the thirtieth anniversary of a major declaration issued by World Health Organisation and UNICEF in 1978. This identified equity as a core value underpinning primary health care.

“We will be asking the question: how can we improve health for everyone in this country, not just those who can afford to pay,” says symposium organiser, Dr Pat Neuwelt, from the University’s School of Population Health. “We will be hearing from world and local authorities on the issue of social justice in health care.”

“Achieving health equity requires action by everyone who can bring influence to bear — citizens, practitioners, researchers, policymakers and politicians. Only then we can seriously address the inequalities in health care. We still have a long way to go.”

The symposium is a think-tank rather than a conference, says Dr Neuwelt. “It will come up with a collective set of action points.”

A keynote speaker is Professor Fran Baum, one of Australia’s leading researchers on the social and economic determinants of health. She was a member of the WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health which reported recently that health inequities were killing people on a "grand scale".

"[The] toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large measure, responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible," said the Commission.

Other speakers include the former Director-General of Health, Dr George Salmond; Dr Don Matheson, a public health specialist and consultant on international health and primary health care; the current Director-General of Health, Stephen McKernan; and the Minister of Health, the Hon David Cunliffe.

Dr John Martin, Adviser on Primary Health Care to the Office of the Director General, World Health Organisation, is joining the symposium by videoconference.

The symposium is sponsored by Auckland, Counties Manukau and Hutt Valley DHBs, as well as Health Care Aotearoa, DHBNZ and the Ministry of Health.


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