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Professor outlines NZ healthcare challenges and solutions

March 19, 2014

Professor outlines NZ healthcare challenges and solutions

The 21st century health challenges New Zealanders face along with frontier solutions, will be addressed at a Professorial Lecture to be held at Massey University’s Albany campus this evening.

Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Health Professor Paul McDonald is on a mission to enhance and protect human health, health equity and wellbeing through transformational ideas, people and partnerships.

With an election looming for New Zealand, it’s time, he says, for some radical new thinking by the public and by politicians about the vital role of health — especially as taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars run out.

“It’s simply not sustainable to keep digging into our pockets to pay for healthcare.

“In 2009, New Zealand spent 10.3 per cent of its GDP on health – we’re the ninth highest health spender of the 33 member countries in the OECD. We know healthcare spending will continue to rise. More money for healthcare means means less money in areas that support health and wellbeing, like housing, education, social services, transportation, and environmental protection.

“As a nation we face major challenges with increasing rates of chronic diseases, infectious diseases and an ageing population. Our healthcare system is ill-equipped to address these issues. We need to embrace more effective solutions.What do we need to do now to address inequities in these areas to help improve the health of our entire community?”

Professor McDonald says our healthcare system was never designed to treat chronic illnesses and was originally designed to focus on acute illnesses and injuries. But more medical technology and more drugs are not the answers if we hope to curb the healthcare crisis facing many countries because they drive up healthcare costs.

“The answers lie in better public health measures. Since the late 1980s, New Zealand and the rest of the OECD countries have spent more than 90 per cent of their money on clinical medical care, while less than 3 per cent has been invested into public health. At the same time investments in social programmes, environmental protection, and education have been falling.”

Professor McDonald will discuss the need to move away from 20th century medical treatments which emphasise individual responsibility towards more innvoative and collaborative solutions commensurate with 21st century challenges and scientific breakthroughs. He will outline the need to re-think our approach to “chronic diseases” like diabetes and asthma, introduce alternative therapies, invest in social determinants, and create stronger public-private-academic partnerships in areas like food and nutrition.

Professor McDonald is an award-winning researcher and scholar whose work informs public health policies, programmes and human resource capacity. His most recent work has focused on building human capacity and complex planning models for public and population health. He holds a PhD in Health Studies (population health) and has authored more than 200 publications, reports, policy briefs and presentations, including contributions to a Royal Commission on the Future of Healthcare in Canada.

The lecture will be held on Wednesday March 19 in the Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatres on Albany Campus from 6.30pm.


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