Healthy changes without government

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
11 August, 2023

In this election year, the crisis in New Zealand’s health system stands as one of the nation’s primary concerns. So, on Wednesday, we held our first Health Innovators’ Summit’ in Auckland, kindly sponsored by nib.

Despite the severe challenges in the sector, it turned out to be a beacon of hope.

More than 100 professionals, mainly from the health sector but also including politicians like National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti and ACT Leader David Seymour, gathered to share insights and ideas.

David Kirk, former All Blacks’ captain and now an investor in telehealth companies, explained how patients in Australia now have access to essential services online.

Former Prime Minister Bill English spoke about his pioneering work with individualised funding for disability benefits through Manawanui.

Ian McRae, the founder and previous CEO of Orion Health, shared his conviction that the future of healthcare lies in the rise of data, machine learning, and AI.

Emeritus Professor Des Gorman, emphasised the urgent need to increase the number of GPs to avoid a shortage in the near future.

Rangimarie Hunia and Tom Irvine of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei shared the success story of their community-driven health initiative.

Among speakers and guests, there was unanimous agreement that the recent health reforms were misguided. Not least because their centralisation aspect is problematic. Indeed, New Zealand now has the most centralised public health service in the world, surpassing even Britain’s NHS.

Our speakers also cautioned against waiting for grand health reform. Given the complexity of health, grand reforms are likely to fail but suck up enormous resources.

Instead, there was an inspiring call for people to take matters into their own hands. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is a case in point.  Bill English’s work with Manawanui is another.

The use of data to revolutionise health care delivery was another widespread point of agreement, again exemplified by Bill English’s work on social investment and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s use of New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI).

New Zealand’s health challenges are serious, but the mood of the event was not downbeat. Instead, it was a call to action. The event left participants hopeful that change is possible if we do not wait for government intervention but let local and small initiatives lead the way.

The Health Innovators’ Summit showed a path forward. And perhaps surprisingly for a policy event, this path does not require much government involvement. And the health outcomes will probably be better for it.

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