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Fundamental shift in health focus: Greens

30 October 2008
EMBARGOED UNTIL MIDDAY

Fundamental shift in health focus: Greens

The Green Party's Preventative Health Strategy was launched at Wellington Hospital today with Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley calling for a dramatic change in how New Zealand approaches health.

"We need a fundamental shift in our health system to focus on prevention and keeping people well. We need to move away from a system that deals only with people who are unwell rather than the root causes of ill health - such as poor diets, poverty, cold and damp houses."

At least $3 billion is currently spent on treating preventable illnesses and this places a massive burden on our health system, in addition to causing unnecessary suffering and harm to the people and families affected, Ms Kedgley says.

"The reality is that our hospitals are clogged with people who are suffering from preventable illnesses, whether it's the 13,000 New Zealanders who were hospitalised with skin infections last year or the thousands of New Zealanders who suffer from chronic dietary-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, at a cost to the health system of $600 million per year."

The economic and social cost of preventable illness is huge and needs to be addressed right now, Ms Kedgley says.

"That's why our priority is health prevention, and we want to see a progressive increase in funding for preventative health to at least 10 percent of the health budget.

"If we don't increase our spending on preventative health and reduce the number of people ending up in hospital, our healthcare system will remain in crisis, and health expenditure will continue to skyrocket," Ms Kedgley says.

The Green Party's strategy has a raft of initiatives to promote people's health that include:

* Free annual wellness checks for all New Zealanders and extensive checks at key life stages
* Improving access to free dental care for young people
* A levy on soft drinks to pay for increased dental services for young people
* Insulate all cold, damp homes in New Zealand
* Raise real incomes including the minimum wage to $15
* Speed up the state house building programme to provide more quality, sustainable low income housing
* Get rid of ads for unhealthy food before 8.30pm at night, teach gardening and cooking in all primary schools, and introduce a traffic light labelling system on food
* Increase investment in diabetes prevention
* Promote drug-free lifestyles in schools and education on risks of cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco

* Preventable health costings are attached and the policy is available at weblink: http://www.greens.org.nz/health/preventative


ENDS


Preventative_Health_Costings_for_circulation.xls

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