A report commissioned by the Healthier Lives–He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge

Authors: Cameron Leaky, Jennifer Curtin, and Lara Greaves

This report represents a ‘landscape’ of government health policy documents in Aotearoa New Zealand specific to the interests of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge (HLNSC). After an environmental scan of 48 government outputs, we focused in on 15 based on their direct relevance to the work of Healthier Lives. The criteria for selection can be found preceding the inventory. In this report we provide a summary table and text of each of the listed policies, outlining in each the priorities and strategic goals outlined by the Ministry of Health and any potential gaps in the policy coverage.

Our analysis suggests there is a lack of cohesive Action Plans for all of the Healthier Lives target disease states, with the exception being cancer. In that case, the 2019-2029 Cancer Action Plan and concurrent establishment of the Cancer Control Agency has as its focus an objective to “provide strong central leadership and oversight of cancer control”.

By contrast, the other disease targets of the Healthier Lives Projects have Action Plans that have now lapsed (diabetes); are lacking plans but have suggested action through the provision of guidelines (Obesity and Healthy Food and Drink Guidelines); or have no stated vision or plan of action (cardiovascular disease).

There is a strong focus across all New Zealand health policy documents on ensuring better health outcomes for Māori and Pacific peoples. In addition, the Ministry’s Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020-25 and Ola Manuia: Pacific Health and Wellbeing Plan address aspirations for bettering Māori and Pacific peoples’ health outcomes, which are recognised as currently and historically inequitable. This suggests that the focus by Healthier Lives on culturally centred health interventions for Māori and Pacific peoples means that Healthier Lives research is well-aligned with health research in these strategies and across the Ministry.

Better provision of data and information, and increased utility of this data for patients, clinicians, and researchers is given a new focus in the Ministry of Health’s Data and Information Strategy for Health and Disability. Published in 2021, the Strategy emphasises the goal of promoting patient use and access to health data alongside the ability to utilise macro data for research.

The current Health and Disability system restructure, a result of the Health and Disability System Review initiated by the current government (and chaired by Heather Simpson), provides a new opportunity for the provision of healthcare, as well as for research input into the system. This review appears to be a potential watershed moment in how healthcare is provided and organised in Aotearoa New Zealand. The final report notably asks for better alignment with the New Zealand Health Research Strategy, and a better influence of health research on policy and service.

Public Policy Institute, 2022

NSC Report 24 March 2022 (PDF)

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