As someone who is coming to the end of her first term as an elected member of the Bay of Plenty Health Board and seeking a second term, I thought I might spend a few words on this very important portfolio. Firstly I think that our health system performs reasonably well but could and should do better going forward.
There are too many NZ’ers who do not enjoy the same health and wellbeing as the general population does. Maori and Pacific populations and those with a pre-existing disability are evidentially over represented in this group.
We even know the barriers that prevent these groups from receiving the health services they need, and it is becoming clearer who needs to be held accountable and responsible for the removal of those barriers.
Expensive hospital-level interventions that are preventable if we got the basics right are too frequent. Basics such as healthy homes, affordable and accessible close-to-home Primary Health services, greater access to telehealth services, and greater collaboration between services with the same client base e.g. Early Childhood Education Centres and relative health services, to name a few.
Prevention is better than cure and we need to get serious about the known drivers of poor health outcomes, like childhood obesity, smoking, sugary diets, low levels of activity and excessive consumption of alcohol.
The excuse that I am free to abuse my body as I please needs to be balanced against the very harsh reality that if you neglect your health you will eventually clog up our shared health system at the expense of those who made more of an effort to live healthy lifestyles.
I am not however advocating for some sort of treatment based on merit system. We are better than that here in NZ. But the cost of health is escalating and we can no longer put our head in the sand and think that poor personal choice has little impact of public expenditure.
Judy Turner, Deputy Party Leader & Health Spokesperson