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Free annual wellness check for all New Zealanders

Free annual wellness check for all New Zealanders

The Green Party has today launched the first in a series of "Green Solutions" it will be unveiling during the election campaign: a free, annual wellness check for all New Zealanders.

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who announced the first Green Solution at the Party's Campaign Launch in Takapuna this afternoon, said the free yearly medical check, or "wellness check", was aimed at helping Kiwis stay healthy.

"The wellness check will be an opportunity for Kiwis to see a health professional when they're not sick," Ms Fitzsimons said. "It will be a free appointment for a general check-up, so that you can discuss how healthy your body is, any concerns you have, and get advice about what you can do to get healthier or stay healthy.

"We know that New Zealanders have high rates of obesity, undiagnosed diabetes, skin cancers and STDs. We also know that screening for some illnesses can dramatically improve our chances of survival.

"For goodness sake, we demand an annual warrant of fitness for our cars, why not take the same precautions with our health?"

The "Wellness Check" is one initiative contained in the Green Party's full health policy, to be launched shortly. The check could include: tests for blood pressure and cholesterol; a skin check for melanoma; screening for cervical, breast and prostate cancer, anaemia, or STDs; a nutrition check-up; exercise and fitsness advice; identification of other health needs such as depression, substance abuse, and pain management.

Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said the wellness checks were an integral part of the Green Party's preventative approach to health.

"We want to give priority to health promotion, the prevention of illness and tackling the root causes of ill health. New Zealand spends $10 billion every year on health, but most of that goes on treating people once they have become ill.

"We want to shift the focus on to keeping people well, and taking simple steps to tackle the root causes of ill-health. We want a much more holistic approach to health, which treats the whole person and their environment, not just the symptoms of disease, and which empowers people to take greater care of themselves," Ms Kedgley said.

Ms Fitzsimons said the policy would have an upfront cost of around $200 million. However, this money would be saved, over time, by picking up health problems before they become serious, resulting in significant reductions in the numbers of people needing hospital care. By giving people individual advice on nutrition, physical activity and wellness, it would save spending on treating preventable diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and STDs.

Ms Fitzsimons said she was excited about today's Green Solution.

"It's a real Green Solution because it takes the long-term view. It says, 'let's look after ourselves now, so we don't get sick later'. It's a fence at the top of the cliff approach, when other political parties focus on the ambulance at the bottom. It's about doing the right thing now, so we don't have so many problems in the future."

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