Make health equity the norm
New Zealand Election Statement 2017
Letter from Dr Jonathan Christiansen, New Zealand President, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
As physicians and paediatricians we care for patients struggling with preventable illnesses every day. We know that unhealthy housing, insecure and precarious work and poor mental health directly impact our patients’ health and wellbeing. Too often we treat illness knowing our patients are returning to social and environmental situations that will perpetuate poor health.
Our College’s purpose is to serve the health of patients, carers, communities and populations. We have a responsibility to use our collective voice to positively influence health and social policies, and bring vital improvements to the health of our nation’s people. Our College can make a real difference when it focuses on issues where we can lead through our strength in diversity of specialist expertise.
We wish to challenge the current state, where unacceptable levels of child poverty and shocking housing conditions have become apparently ‘normalised’ in our society. Inequities in health outcomes will persist unless such stark social inequities are urgently addressed. Taking action on the social determinants of health needs a whole-of-society response led by government, and such action is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence.
Our campaign calls for policymakers to make health equity the norm to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable people in our communities.
We call for immediate actions, including:
- making healthy housing the norm by introducing a regulation to mandate a Warrant of Fitness and Health for residential dwellings
- making good work the norm by promoting the Living Wage to support the health and wellness of employees and their whānau
- making whānau wellbeing the norm by taking a child-centred approach to all legislation, policy and regulation.
As New Zealand President, I am proud to lead our College’s New Zealand Election Statement and our call for action. Former Prime Minister Norman Kirk said: “People don’t want much – just somewhere to live, something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.” As specialists and trainees of our College let’s work together to achieve a society in which people grow, live, work and age in community conditions that promote health and wellbeing, and in which equity of health outcomes is the norm.
Dr Jonathan Christiansen FRACP
New Zealand President
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
Introducing our case study whānau
Our whānau can be found in any town or city in New Zealand, living in a privately rented house. The house is overcrowded. High prices for rent, redundancy and separation have meant that 12 members of an extended whānau are living together in a three bedroom house, with the teenage children in the garage.
We spotlight six characters from this family. The stories have been developed by RACP physicians and paediatricians from the dozens of examples they see every day in clinical practice. All characters have interactions with the health system from inpatient paediatrics, to a youth clinic, to primary care. The characters represent ages and stages across the life course, from a toddler to an older woman, and show the complexity, interaction and affect between housing, work and whānau wellbeing.
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