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Place community at centre of primary health

Place community at centre of primary health services – Maori Party
Hon Tariana Turia, Health spokesperson 5 September 2008

A critical Health Workforce report echoes concerns from Maori health providers that GP practices capture most funding, and nursing and support services miss out, according to the Maori Party.

Health spokesperson Tariana Turia says a medical model of health still pervades the system, and trained community health workers and grass-roots advocates for healthy lifestyles do not get the priority they deserve.

“This report shows that even so-called primary health services are still focused on treating illness, rather than promoting health and well-being,” said Mrs Turia.

“The funding model is not rewarding integrated service providers who target the foundations of good health – warm housing, nourishing kai, awareness of the benefits of sport and physical recreation, and proactive whanau support,” she said.

“Instead it maintains a system to treat people who turn up at the clinic needing health care after they have already got sick. That is actually the second step in health care.

“Many Maori health providers have evolved from self-help services developed by communities who had little relationship with doctors – so they got together the people who felt they had something to contribute to community health and made a start.

“This report confirms that genuine front-line services like these, who are part of their communities, are still not getting a fair share of primary health funding. It’s as though you’re not involved in health unless you work at a clinic alongside doctors and professional specialists,” said Mrs Turia.

“The Maori Party supports capitation funding in principle, where funding is allocated on the basis of population and need rather than services provided, but we also know there are problems of funding capture in the primary health sector. So the findings of the report present a confused picture.

“On the one hand it says more capital investment is needed in facilities – does this mean doctors’ surgeries, or would that include community gyms and swimming pools? It says there is no vision for primary health – but could that actually mean there is conflict between a vision of whanau ora living in healthy communities, and a prevailing medical model of funding to treat illness?

“The Maori Party believes some communities may take a while to organise themselves to provide genuine primary health services. The government should stick with capitation funding, and support best practice models of local primary health services that are working well in their communities,” said Mrs Turia.


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