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Launch of New Zealand Health Strategy

11 December 2000 Speech Notes - Annette King Minister of Health

Launch of New Zealand Health Strategy

Welcome to everyone here today. An incredible amount of activity, not least the passing of the New Zealand Health and Disability Bill through its third reading, has taken place in the health portfolio since I launched the draft version of the New Zealand Health Strategy on June 1 at Porirua.

The Bill legislates for much of the structural change that is occurring in the health sector. Thursday, December 7, the day the Bill passed through its third reading, was obviously, therefore, an extremely important day for the Labour-Alliance Government in terms of what it wants to achieve in improving the health statistics of New Zealanders.

There have been many other important days since June 1 too.

Budget Day, June 15, was certainly one such day, particularly because of the announcement of the extra money this Government was allocating to elective surgery and to mental health services.

The launch of the discussion document on the New Zealand Disability Strategy, Making a World of Difference, Whakanui Oranga, on September 5 this year was another extremely important day. This strategy will eventually become one of two overarching documents guiding the direction of the New Zealand health sector.

The Primary Health Care Strategy was, of course, launched before June 1, but work has been continuing on revising this strategy since then, and it should be ready for release early in the New Year.

Of all the milestone days in health since this Government came into office, however, the most important before today was certainly the launch of the draft NZHS document on June 1.

That is because the New Zealand Health Strategy provides the framework for what we intend to achieve in health. The structural changes occurring in the health sector are important, of course, but the NZHS provides the benchmarks against which, I believe, this Government's health programme should eventually be judged.

The NZHS sets out our goals to ensure more effective use of our health resources, to reduce the health disparities that exist between different population groups in our society, and to meet the needs of local communities by increasing community involvement in decision-making.

The Strategy provides recognition that the Government has a responsibility to promote better health for people, as well as to provide quality services when people become ill.

It may seem strange even to have to say that, but this is the first time for a decade that a government has taken a truly strategic approach to improving health.

I firmly believe that if a truly strategic approach is not taken, then there will be no long-term planning. And without long-term planning, any health gains that are made are likely to be either purely temporary, or to be nowhere near as extensive as they might otherwise be.

Given the importance of the New Zealand Health Strategy, it is worth recapping how the draft document was drawn up for release in June, and what has happened to it since then.

The NZHS draft document was developed by the Ministry of Health with the input of a Sector Reference Group drawn from across the sector, and including both professional health representatives and consumer representatives.

In addition an Expert Advisory Group provided specific advice on the Government's health goals and objectives for inclusion in the Strategy.

After June 1, the draft document was subject to a period of extensive public consultation. Approximately 1500 people attended public meetings, hui and fono held across the country, and about 600 written and oral submissions were received.

Those submissions have been carefully analysed, and while the broad thrust of the June document remains intact, the submissions have been extremely valuable in terms of clarifying and sharpening thinking. I sincerely thank everyone who contributed.

And so to the document itself. I do not plan to go through it in detail today, but there are some aspects of the Strategy I wish to highlight particularly.

The New Zealand Health Strategy provides the focus for the new District Health Boards and, through its seven fundamental principles, emphasises three areas of special priority: the need to improve population health; the need to reduce inequalities in health; and the need to ensure high quality services.

The NZHS highlights thirteen population health objectives for the Ministry of Health and the DHBs to focus on for action in the short to medium term.

The goals and objectives in the NZHS were chosen according to a variety of criteria, including, crucially, the degree to which they can improve the health status of the population, and to which they have the potential for reducing health inequalities.

Of the 10 goals and 61 objectives in the Strategy, the 13 population health objectives highlighted for short to medium term action range from broad objectives addressing determinants of health to those aimed specifically at particular diseases.


They include reducing smoking and obesity, improving nutrition, increasing the level of physical activity, as well as objectives aimed at reducing the incidence and impact of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. All the 13 objectives are described in detail in the NZHS document.

As part of the Strategy, toolkits will be developed to help District Health Boards address the 13 population health objectives.

The toolkits will contain:
 Evidence and best practice for achieving health gains for different population groups
 Evidence on action that can be taken by different health providers
 Indicators by which performance can be measured (these indicators will be the principal way in which progress is measured).

The New Zealand Health Strategy also highlights five service priority areas the Government wishes the health sector to concentrate on in the short to medium term. These are services that will have an important input into making progress on the thirteen population health priorities.

Although I said I would not be discussing the NZHS in detail today, it is certainly worthwhile, given some of the debate surrounding the closing stages of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill, to spell out the five service areas.

They are:
 Public health
 Primary health care
 Reducing waiting times for public hospital elective services
 Improving the responsiveness of mental health services
 Accessible and appropriate services for people living in rural areas.

Before I conclude these introductory remarks, and we all get the opportunity for a little fun, I want to make particular mention of Chapter 5 in the document.

The chapter is headed Ensuring Quality Services. In an important sense, the year 2000 has inevitably been a year for talking about health issues, though everyone in the health sector has made a magnificent effort in keeping the sector moving at the same time.

From now on, however, it is time for less talking and more doing, and it is vital, I believe, that whatever we do together in the new cooperative and collaborative health sector is based on providing the highest quality of health services available within our resources.

Quality must be the cornerstone of everything we do. As the Strategy says: "High quality care is about performance and patient and consumer satisfaction. The right thing is done for the patient in the right way, the right result is obtained, care is delivered efficiently, and adverse events are minimised."

While health services in New Zealand are generally safe and of good quality, in the past few years there have been many incidents that have aroused concern about the public health service as a whole.

If we are to restore a public health system in which people can have confidence and trust, and that is certainly the aim of the Labour-Alliance Government, then we must commit to a culture of continual quality improvement. We must share knowledge and experience so that we can develop consistency across the whole health sector.

There is one other issue I will touch upon before closing. That is that the population health of New Zealand, particularly in terms of reducing health disparities between population groups, cannot be improved in a sustained way without taking an intersectoral approach.

All sectors, including health, social welfare, housing and education, to name but some, must work together in terms of health promotion and disease and injury prevention, if New Zealand is to become a healthier country.

New Zealand is limited by what it can spend, and that means making choices. That is why the New Zealand Health Strategy sets out priorities for health spending. We have to spend our finite resources where they can do most good.

Some of the choices boil down to the strictly personal, of course. They can involve something as simple as a change in lifestyIe for some New Zealanders.

Thank you very much for attending this launch, and thank you too for what I believe is your commitment, shown through development of the Strategy and subsequent submissions, to a healthier New Zealand. A particular thank you also to those people who are not here, but who have contributed to the development of this Strategy.

I promised a little fun at this launch, and that is what we are going to come to now. I hand over proceedings to Kylie Carter who is going to involve us all in a practical demonstration of doing, not talking. Thank you all, and thank you Kylie.

ENDS

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