Wellington, July 19,2023
The government has unveiled its long-term health strategy for all New Zealanders.
The New Zealand Health Strategy sets the direction for the health sector over the next 10 years, and forms part of a set of strategies under the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures Act 2022).
The strategy is focused on the factors that govern public health and wellbeing. It examines the role of health services and envisions “a future state where people and whanau can live well and achieve good health, and where our communities and environments support us to be healthy.”
“This is the first time Pacific peoples, women and rural communities have had their own health strategies,” Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said.
The strategy builds on a commitment to Te Tirite o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) and the health system’s obligations to Māori.
The Te Tirite principles identified by the Waitangi Tribunal are embodied in the Pae Ora Act and guide the health sector.
The New Zealand Health Strategy sits alongside Pae Tu (the Hauora Maori Strategy), which sets the direction of the health system in respect of Te Tirite.
The two long-term goals of Pae Ora are, first, “to achieve health equity for our diverse communities, and especially for Māori, Pacific, disabled and other groups who currently have poorer outcomes,” and, second, to improve health outcomes for all New Zealanders.
The government notes these goals are set to a long horizon and straddle “multiple generations and partners.” They recognise the need for “collective and coordinated actions to address health, inequities, poor health outcomes and the underlying causes of both.”
A key element of the health strategy is the recognition that “lasting transformation requires a shift in how we think about health and what we value.”
For the next 10 years, the health sector strategy will give “people, whanau and communities greater control and influence over decisions about their health.” They will have a say in the planning, delivery and reporting on healthcare.
Health services will be focused on preventing ill health and delivering services closer to homes and communities. The health workforce will be recognised as “our most valuable asset,” supporting the development of “sustainable, diverse, skilled and confident workers for the future.”
Priority will also be given to a “culture of continuous learning and quality improvement, supported by research, evaluation and innovation.”
The long-term health strategy aims to prepare the health system for “future shocks,” and to tailor resources to demand and affordability over the long-term.
It emphasises partnerships and building “cross-sector and cross-government relationships” to drive collaboration on health and wellbeing.
The government identified the priority areas after assessing current health outcomes, trends and opportunities, as well as from feedback received through whanau and communities.
There was extensive engagement by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Ethnic Communities through face-to-face meetings, focus groups, online discussions, written submissions and in-depth workshops.
“During the process, we heard stories of people who didn’t get the help they needed because of gender, orientation or ethnicity,” the minister said.
The government notes that health strategies take time to succeed. Health entities will be briefed on the “precise actions and plans to deliver the strategy’s vision” through the next Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Health (for 2024-2027) and Te Pae Tata (the New Zealand Health Plan).
The GPS on Health is a public statement that sets the government’s focus areas of the health system for a three-year period. The New Zealand Health Plan lays out detailed service plans for the same period.
“This is an ambitious vision,” Health Minister Verrall said.
“Change of this scale will take time. Health isn’t just a short-term outcome. These strategies provide the direction for lasting change.”
Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington