RACP calls for health equity in all government policies

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is supportive of increases to the Accommodation Supplement announced by the New Zealand Government in its 2017 Budget, but warned that issues of housing quality and availability need urgent attention to improve rates of poverty-related hospitalisations and health outcomes.

RACP New Zealand President Dr Jonathan Christiansen said: “while it represents assistance for thousands of families who have been under enormous pressure from rapidly increasing housing costs, access to healthy homes that are affordable remains an issue. “New Zealand homes, particularly rented homes, tend to be cold, damp, hard to ventilate and expensive to heat.

“This can lead to children and adults developing chronic respiratory conditions which often require hospitalisation and increases the risk of infectious disease in overcrowded homes.” Other initiatives announced today shows the Government continues to prioritise New Zealanders at risk of poor health, social and education outcomes as part of its Social Investment package:

 $28.1m to expand Family Start
 $34.7m to support children with behavioural issues
 $19.5m for the Intensive Work and Income Client Support Service
 $11.6m for prisoners at risk of self-harm and suicide

Dr Christiansen said these initiatives are well intended and are important steps towards health equity.

However, he added there is a need for more holistic approaches to addressing the structural determinants of good health, including healthy housing, ‘good’ work and whānau wellbeing.

“Ensuring whānau are supported to lead healthy lives by addressing the causes of poor health will lead to reduced costs for the health system and greater health equity.

“The need for more support for affordable, healthy housing; programmes and initiatives to assist young people not in education, employment or training; and measures to improve our food environments to reduce rates of childhood obesity are urgently needed,” Dr Christiansen said. 
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