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Health equity still ‘under construction’ say Doctors

Wellbeing may be at the centre of government strategy, but too many children and whānau are remaining on the outer, cautions The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).

In a series of report cards released today, the RACP’s Aotearoa NZ President, paediatrician Dr Jeff Brown said that while some progress has been made, transformative change remains ‘under construction’ for the most vulnerable in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The RACP’s 2017 election statement centred on the social determinants of health, and called for healthy housing, good work and whānau wellbeing to be the norm for all people in Aotearoa. In 2019, are we making health equity the norm?”

“Our three report cards look at what policies are making a difference to people’s health and wellbeing and check in on our case study whānau: Where has policy change made a difference in their lives, and where do they continue to struggle?”

The RACP’s Report Cards include results on the top three policies making a difference to people’s health in housing, work, and whānau wellbeing as identified by physicians and paediatricians. These include the introduction of healthy homes standards, greater annual increases in the minimum wage, and more people being eligible for lower-cost primary health care.

“There have absolutely been legislative and policy changes in this government’s term that have and will continue to make a difference to the lives of children and whānau in Aotearoa,” Dr Brown said.

However, Dr Brown noted that despite nearly every major area of government activity and expenditure being under review, the evidence-based recommendations many reports have proposed have largely been distanced from government strategy, or apparently shelved completely.

“The results of the major reviews of NZ government systems has not lead to immediate shake-ups in the way we deliver services or work to reduce inequities,” Dr Brown said.

“The government is poised to make announcements on its larger than anticipated surplus. The RACP calls for the surplus to go towards making health equity the norm for people in Aotearoa NZ.”

Dr Brown cited the recommendations in the Whakamana Tangata report into New Zealand’s social welfare system as a report providing the blueprint for equitable, transformational change.

“Unfortunately, as only three out of 42 recommendations have been accepted and acted on, it appears that restoring dignity to our most vulnerable whānau is very much still under construction.”

The RACP’s recommendations to make health equity the norm include:

Healthy Housing: Building public housing as a matter of urgency
Good Work: Encouraging greater uptake of the Living Wage, to make a difference to household incomes
Whānau Wellbeing: Extend the Winter Energy Payment to whānau living on low incomes to reduce fuel poverty and risks of respiratory illnesses

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