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Tireless Health Advocate Named Public Health Champion

Tireless Health Advocate Named Public Health Champion

One of New Zealand’s most inspirational GPs has been recognised for his dedicated and courageous efforts to eradicate poverty-related illnesses in the Far North. Tonight in New Plymouth Dr Lance O’Sullivan was named the Public Health Association’s Public Health Champion for 2013.

Upon hearing he had been nominated for the award, Dr O’Sullivan said he was both humbled and blown away, especially considering the high calibre of Public Health Champions in the past.

“It’s such a privilege to be recognised as having contributed to public health. As a GP I have the opportunity to work on a personal level with people, but so many GPs aren't aware of the potential they have to impact the health of the entire population.

“While I'm immensely proud to accept the award, I'm also excited about the fact that the issues relating to the work I’m doing will be highlighted.”

Dr O’Sullivan’s work as a GP in Northland gave him a first-hand glimpse of the impact poverty was having on the health and wellbeing of entire families. Preventable diseases, such as rheumatic fever and skin infections, were rife, and little action was being taken in terms of treatment and prevention.

As well as setting up a health clinic at Kaitaia Hospital, Dr O’Sullivan has been instrumental in developing a number of different programmes to provide medical care for more than 2000 children across 14 schools in Northland.

It has been a year of awards for Dr O’Sullivan. He has also won Maori of the Year (in the Health category), and the supreme Award for Maori of the Year. He has also received a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award.

Dr O’Sullivan says he is honoured by the awards, but that they have not been the highlights of the year for him.

“For me, it’s not about the awards or the recognition. My highlight has been seeing the great results and positive outcomes from the work we've been doing. It’s been seeing the health of entire communities improving. That’s what makes me really chuffed.”

Over the next few months Dr O’Sullivan’s attention will be turned to a new initiative he’s working on: an iPad app to help diagnose and treat skin infections.

“The idea behind the app is to be able to reach the unreachable. We’re aiming to get it out early next year, which will allow us to help people by identifying early potentially disabling skin diseases.”


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