24 July 2000 Media Statement
Maharey links poverty and poor public health
Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey took the opportunity of an address to the Public Health
Association 2000 Conference to map out the connections between poverty and public health.
"We know that economic and social inequality increased markedly in this country over the past decade – the gaps widened.
But after ten years in the wilderness we have a Government which recognises that health status cannot be separated from
the other realities of people's lives.
"We are committed to tackling inequality, not just because it is morally repugnant, but fundamentally because extremes
of inequality cost lives.
"This was a difficult message to sell to the last Government. They didn't want to hear it because it challenged the
basis of their approach to economic and social policy.
"But almost every health professional knows families who crowded together to cope with high State House rentals; whose
children were always sick and missing school because of the damp conditions and lack of heating; while chronically
unemployed parents became more depressed and despondent.
"And children who experience deprivation during childhood are less likely to do well in school, locking them into a
cycle of low income and poor health.
Steve Maharey told the Conference that by focusing on jobs and on decent housing the Government was addressing the key
determinants of public health and well-being.
"The last Government's hands-off approach did not deliver well-being. That is a signal point of difference"