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Housing or hospitals?

Media Release
30 November 2012

Housing or hospitals?

The latest issue of the Journal of Primary Health Care sees debate on the issue of capping the health budget in favour of spending more money on housing and food.

In the Back-to-Back column Professor Howden-Chapman argues that spending on housing rather than hospitals will lead to better health outcomes, whereas Dr White counters that increasing spending on hospital and other health services generates a good return on investment.

Professor Howden-Chapman points to the success of the now defunct Healthy Housing Programme run by Housing Corporation New Zealand and the Auckland District Health Boards. This was successful in reducing acute and arranged hospital admissions for under 20s in households participating in the programme. She sees the lack of continued investment in the programme as misguided considering that inequalities in infectious disease rates are driven by poverty and household overcrowding.

Dr White argues that spending more on health, besides improving health outcomes, has considerable value to society increased employment, recreation and community wellbeing. He says the health budget should not be capped to spend more on housing and food; instead more should be spent on prevention of disease and in care of patients already ill.

The journal also features the results of a population survey about awareness of drug safety and possible adverse effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

“The survey found adults taking prescription and over-the-counter medications had a very low level of drug safety knowledge.”

Also featured in this issue is a study of nutritional risk amongst community-living older people in Hawke’s Bay.

“The study found nutritional risk is present in over half of the over-65 year olds sampled, with older Maori 5.2 times more likely to be at risk than non-Maori”, says the Editor.

Poor nutrition increases the risk of hospitalisation, disability and morbidity. Maintaining good nutrition is vital for healthy aging.

The Journal of Primary Health Care is published by The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners quarterly. The December issue is available on their website at


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