INDEPENDENT NEWS

The Low Or No-cost Health Prevention Initiatives The Government Ignored In This Budget

Published: Fri 31 May 2024 01:09 PM
Health Coalition Aotearoa is calling on the government to listen to the experts and acknowledge the impacts that can be made to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, with very little cost required.
"We had all been warned by the government that this budget would be moderate and careful and while it is pleasing to see some uplift in spend for primary, community and public health, a large majority of the money allocated to health is to address issues once people become unwell and require care," said Professor Lisa Te Morenga, Health Coalition Aotearoa co-chair.
"There are so many initiatives that health providers and health advocacy groups have been calling for that can be implemented with little cost that focus on the health prevention measures that keep people well."
Despite making up almost 1/3 of preventable death and disease, public health initiatives that address harm from tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy food continue to be erased from a national health strategy. Health Coalition Aotearoa are urging the government to reconsider the following:
1. Reinstate the Smokefree Act and continue on our path to being a Smokefree country. This would save the health system $1.2 billion over the next twenty years.
2. Keep the Ka Ora, Ka Ako Healthy School Lunches Programme in its current format, providing healthy and nutritious food for all students at schools involved in the programme. Our high school students deserve better than packaged and processed foods. Investing in the first 8000 days of children’s lives with food delivering to students’ nutritional needs will return benefits to Aotearoa.
3. Implement a national food strategy and regional food policies as recommended by the 2023 New Zealand Healthy Food Policy Index and the recently released Balancing Our Food System report by the Public Health Advisory Committee. This would create the conditions for improved population health and nutrition, increase the supply of affordable healthy food and reduce food insecurity.
4. Restrict marketing and sponsorship of alcohol and redraft alcohol law in partnership with Māori to ensure Te Tiriti o Waitangi is given appropriate effect and eliminates the disproportionate harm to Māori.
5. Ensure that an adequate proportion of the budget (5% of the health spend) is allocated to primary and public health. Long-term investment in the determinants of health will save the health system.
Health Coalition Aotearoa co-chair of the Public Health Infrastructure Panel David Galler remains frustrated at a lack of initiatives aligned to improve the health and wellbeing of our people. "Yesterday we saw the National government promoting the investment of $8 billion in health to reduce wait times. This is focusing funding on the wrong area of the health system. We need to see a budget with fresh thinking with an approach that both recognises and tackles the drivers of ill health and wellbeing across all of society and invests in the overall health and wellbeing of the population."
"The demands on our health system will continue to rise dramatically with a failure to recognise and reduce the drivers of health while injecting more money into treating the consequences."

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