Health equity matters

To me, equity is about fairness – about having the same opportunities to the best start in life, to be educated, and to be healthy. And yet there are currently 200,000 tamariki across Aotearoa growing up in poverty. This growing disparity isn’t new and countries around the world are trying to grapple with the inequities that exist in health. Through our ‘Healthy Together’ strategy CM Health is committed to narrowing the health and poverty gap and in doing so move a step closer in our quest for health equity.

Joining me today is Kaitaia GP and former New Zealander of the year Dr Lance O’Sullivan. Lance is well known for his campaigning for equity in healthcare and health outcomes and recently joined Ko Awatea as a senior clinical fellow. Lance talks about his vision for health equity in Counties Manukau.

Tena koutou katoa.  On Monday 1st August I returned to Middlemore Hospital, where I spent time as a training doctor.  As a medical student, I wanted to spend the majority of my time at Middlemore because I was keen to acquire the skills and experience of working for communities with high health needs, significant challenges and unique cultural and social strengths.  I’m delighted to be starting  my new role as a senior clinical fellow at Ko Awatea with a role in the health equity campaign.

The opportunity to support this critically important aspiration for the community of Counties Manukau is exciting.  Improving health outcomes for marginalised and vulnerable communities of New Zealanders was the reason I went to medical school and then to Kaitaia by way of Rotorua. Health equity requires strong leadership from our decision makers who are the custodians of our power. At a national level, we call them government and at a local level it is our DHB’s and PHOs. It is encouraging to see CM Health demonstrate this leadership by putting a flag up to say that equitable health outcomes are a priority for this community.

However despite the leadership, taking the first step toward the goal of an equitable community by 2020 will require the selfless and tireless efforts of everyone. This includes all of our staff in the hospital, from orderlies to managers, to our GPs and community teams. It will include engaging with organisations like council, schools, churches, marae, NGO’s and community groups that shape the world this community lives in.

For those of you reading this, the reason to be involved is clear.  Just think about the patients you will see today and tomorrow, who you know will be shortchanged in this game of life. You will see them on your way to work, during your travels in the day, whether it’s pushing a patient in a bed to the operating theatre or immunising a child in their home. You will see them this weekend on the sidelines or at the mall and I ask you to consider having a quiet and private thought that says “I am going to a part of a movement to help you reach your FULL potential”.  The pursuit of health equity by us all that allows the children of this community to grow old together will be rewarding beyond measure.  Imagine passing happy and laughing children as you travel to work, knowing that you helped reduce the burden that had previously weighed heavily on them.

One focus of the health equity campaign is childhood obesity.  The obesity epidemic is a hospital pass we are throwing to our children and sets them up for a life where some will spend more life ill than in quality time with their loved ones. You can see who those children will be today and we have an opportunity to change their tomorrow.

In closing, I am excited about returning to Counties Manukau Health and believe with the experience and knowledge I have gained since I was last here I can contribute to the important work to be done.

Nga mihi

Lance and Geraint


Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

2 thoughts on “Health equity matters”

  1. I recently read Lance’s book, very thought provoking. Will this ‘health equity campaign’ include learning about and growing fruit and vegetables?

  2. In terms of health equity I would ask that you consider the facility of a freephone number for birthing and assessment at Middlemore as a matter of priority for our impoverished women. The have health inequity due to poverty. Currently they do free texts (they have no credit to call) to the community midwives I manage – often when the midwives’ phones are off out of hours – and as a conseqence they do not receive the response and care they require. They have been advised to call Middlemore out of hour for advice and provided with the number. They have no credit to call the Middlemore landline number. This health inequity is easily solved with the DHB funding a freephone number

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