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NZCPHM Advocates Spending Less on Health Care

1 April 2012

The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine Advocates Spending Less on Health Care.... in the Long-Term

It’s a fairly simple equation; healthy people make less demand on the health budget than unhealthy people. Both the NZMA and the Child Poverty Action Group have recently called for the government to take urgent action to address New Zealand’s rates of child poverty and consequent ill health, and now the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine adds its voice to call for stronger prevention efforts to address health inequalities.

In its recent submission on the “Inquiry into the determinants of health and wellbeing for Māori children” the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM) has called for greater investment in preventative measures to combat infectious diseases and highlights an urgent need to address broad social determinants such as income levels, poor housing conditions and access to health services, all of which impact on population health outcomes. There is now a substantial body of evidence documenting the short and long term negative physical and mental health outcomes that result from serious economic, physical and social disadvantage in childhood, and in particular early childhood.

Dr Julia Peters, President of the NZCPHM says “it’s easy to assume everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy good health in New Zealand, unfortunately the reality does not support this assumption. Action must be taken to address the negative impact of poor socio-economic conditions on child health and in particular those of Māori and Pacific children. A disproportionate investment will be required to begin to reduce these long-standing inequities”.

A significant proportion of New Zealand children are disadvantaged from birth and recent studies show inequalities have increased substantially in the past 20 years. Māori and Pacific people have more than twice the rate of respiratory illnesses, rheumatic fever, infectious skin disease and injury, compared to European and other groups. One sector on its own is unlikely to succeed in addressing all these issues.

The College asserts that well-resourced early childhood interventions are some of the most cost effective approaches to reducing health and social inequalities. To begin to address this situation it recommends increased investment in areas of proven efficacy such as maternal health, child health services, early childhood programmes, education, housing, and social development. “Action needs to be taken across the whole of government, and health, welfare and education sectors need to work collaboratively in the design, implementation and monitoring of programmes to reduce existing levels of poverty and to improve health outcomes amongst tamariki and their whānau” says Dr Peters.

The NZCPHM supports the Maori Select Committee inquiry as an important step towards addressing inequalities in health outcomes which exist for New Zealand Tamariki Māori.


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