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.
Lance and Geraint