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Call to look beyond 'health issues"

Call for public health to look beyond 'health issues'

The public health sector must look beyond traditional 'health issues' if they want to continue to make progress in improving the health and wellbeing of New Zealand families, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

In his first address to the Public Health Association National Conference, Pete Hodgson congratulated the sector on its achievements – including the success of the meningococcal b immunisation campaign and the internationally praised pandemic planning process – but cautioned that further success would only come from a focus on the 'determinants of health'.

"Good public health lies at the heart of a healthy, successful society," Pete Hodgson said. "New Zealand's public health community has a lot to celebrate including continued declines in tobacco consumption and our progress in ending the meningococcal b epidemic.

"But if we're going to continue to make real achievements in improving public health, we're going to have to increasingly look outside traditional 'health issues'. There are significant gains to be made by promoting a public health approach to wider social issues and government policy.

"We need to hear more from the public health community on things like urban design, social development, public transport, education and housing. It's our success on these issues that will determine how much progress can be made in further improving the health of New Zealand families."

Releasing the Public Health Advisory Committee's (PHAC) Health Is Everyone's Business: Working Together for Health and Wellbeing, Pete Hodgson said a whole-of-society approach seemed to be taking root with issues such as pandemic planning and obesity prevention, but that the government was now being called on to do more.

"PHAC is challenging the government, local government and the public health sector to learn how to better approach decisions with an assessment of health impacts in mind. In almost everything we do, from public transport to housing, there is a public health benefit to be secured if we look for it.

"I've been pleased to see statements from the PHA this week on issues like climate change and housing. That's the right direction to be moving in, but we all need to start moving faster."

The full PHAC report is available at http://www.nhc.govt.nz/publications.htm


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