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Socially accountable education of health professionals

Socially accountable education of health professionals essential for a quality health workforce for all New Zealanders

The New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA) urges health professional programmes to incorporate social accountability practices into their selection and training processes for a high quality health workforce for all New Zealanders.

“Introducing socially accountable education practices for health professionals will mean that our future doctors, nurses and allied health professionals will be more representative and more in-tune with the needs of the communities they will later serve,” says NZMSA president, Michael Chen-Xu.

“As a consequence, our future health professionals will be better equipped to address the challenges facing our health system, such as the resurgence of third-world infectious diseases like rheumatic fever, and the shortage of general practitioners and doctors in rural areas.

“Importantly, they will also be more likely to want to work here in New Zealand.”

Medical schools with strong social accountability mandates, such as the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Canada and the Flinders University School of Medicine in Australia, deliver graduates that are more likely to work in rural areas and have higher levels of clinical competencies [1].

“An important facet of socially accountable education involves getting students to make meaningful contributions to their communities and to society,” says Mr Chen-Xu.

“These contributions can range from student-lead public health projects sourced from local communities, through to placing students on extended placements in rural or hard-to-staff areas.”

A recent article in the Otago Daily Times reported that almost 40 percent of those entering health professional programmes at the University of Otago came from the wealthiest 20 percent of society.

“A more representative health workforce will require ensuring equitable access to the health professional degrees, as currently only the wealthiest are increasingly be able to do so,” says Mr Chen-Xu

“We fear that the recent changes to Student Allowances and Student Loans schemes will exacerbate the current inequalities in access to the health professional degrees thereby jeopardising the quality of New Zealand’s future health workforce.”

NZMSA believes that the introduction of socially accountable practices into the selection and education process for our future health professionals will lead to a more representative and higher quality health workforce, which will be for the benefit of all New Zealanders.


[1] Strasser R, Neusy AJ. Context counts: training health workers in and for rural and remote areas. Bull World Health Organ. 2010 October 1; 88(10): 777–782.


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