Launch of NZ Health Strategy, Powering Up Our Future Health Symposium, Wellington

  • Jonathan Coleman


It’s great to be here today to open this Health Symposium.

This Symposium, Powering Up Our Future, focuses on building a people-powered, technology-enabled sector.

This is a key part of the updated New Zealand Health Strategy which I am launching today.

Government priority

Delivering better health services is a top priority for the Government. We’ve made health our number one funding priority.

The feedback I get from the sector is that while there are challenges, we’re heading in the right direction.

Despite economic challenges, we’ve increased health funding each year.

Claims by government critics that health funding has been cut are incorrect. Under this Government health expenditure share of GDP has averaged 6.5 per cent – that’s up from the previous Government’s level of under 6 per cent. 

Health received $15.9 billion - the largest share of new funding in this year’s budget. We’re investing around $1.7 billion over the next four years for new initiatives and to meet cost pressures and population growth – including more funding for elective surgery, palliative care, and free doctors’ visits for under13s.

I am working hard to ensure health remains a priority in Budget 2016.

Health challenges

The New Zealand health system faces a number of challenges – for example, an increasing number of older people are living longer, there’s a growing burden of long term conditions, and we need to keep up with new technologies and expensive drugs.

We also need to address the disparities in health outcomes for some populations, notably Maori and Pacific people, those with mental health conditions, and people with disabilities.

Life expectancy in New Zealand has increased at a faster rate than Australia, the UK, the US and Canada, and now rivals or exceeds these four countries - which all spend more on health per head of population than we do.

A male child born in New Zealand today can expect to live to the age of 79.5 and a female child can expect to live to the age of 83.

We have seen a reduction in mortality rates for cancer and cardiovascular disease due to better prevention, detection and treatment of these conditions.

Like many other countries, our very success in increasing life expectancy also creates our biggest challenge. While people are living longer, they’re also living longer in less than full health, and need more support.

More of us are also living with chronic diseases. Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease make up around 80 per cent of the disease burden for our total population.

We need to find new ways of delivering health services in a more cost effective way, while continuing to improve health outcomes and the quality of services.


In terms of my priorities this year, I want to see more integrated services delivered in the community so people can get the care they need away from hospitals.

I want to ensure speedier access to elective surgery, and we are working to quantify unmet demand to better understand the outcomes of GP referrals to specialists.

The health targets continue to be a key focus. They are not just about numbers – they are about delivering better and quicker access to important health services.

I want to see continued progress on non-communicable diseases. Our largest health burden stems from people suffering chronic conditions.

Implementing the Childhood Obesity Plan is a key focus. We’re now one of the first countries in the OECD to have a target and a comprehensive plan to tackle Childhood Obesity.

There’s no single solution that will fix obesity. That’s why we implemented a range of interventions across Government, the private sector, communities and schools.

I’m also keen on widening access to medicines, and progressing the bowel cancer screening programme.

NZ Health Strategy

New Zealand’s last Health Strategy was published back in 2000.

So it’s timely for a new Strategy, created in collaboration with people and organisations from across health and social services, which considers new and emerging opportunities and provides a clear direction.

The Ministry of Health led the update of the Strategy and engaged extensively with the sector, social service providers and health users over the last year.

A range of people and organisations have contributed to developing this Strategy. Their feedback added significant value and shows people want to play an active role in creating our future health system.

It’s a Strategy designed to benefit everyone. The aim is wellness throughout life for all New Zealanders.

Under the five strategic themes of people-powered, closer to home, value and high performance, one team and smart system, there is an emphasis on more services in the community and a stronger push on prevention, early intervention, and new, innovative ways of reaching our most vulnerable.

This requires a collective change in mindset. To succeed we not only need to seek efficiencies in existing services, but we need to adapt to emerging technologies, innovations and opportunities, and work more effectively together.

To support the Strategy’s implementation, the Ministry of Health is currently reorganising the way it operates.

We need a strengthened and streamlined Ministry, which is empowered to lead the health system. This reorganisation will ensure clearer roles and accountabilities, and reduce duplication.

Working across the social sector

The Strategy aligns with the Government’s direction of integrated social services tailored to those who need them the most. This is a key priority in the new Strategy.

The introduction of national standards in schools, national health targets, the investment approach in welfare, Better Public Services results, and more recently the social housing reform programme, all focus on getting better results from large scale social spending.

However, we also know we can better understand people with complex needs and build services around them, rather than dictate what they will receive. This means using and sharing data in more effective ways.

Last year, the Productivity Commission’s report on social services concluded we should be looking to create a system where decisions are made far closer to the patient or client. Our new Strategy is an opportunity to do just that.

Through shared data and ongoing collaboration, we can identify individuals and groups who would benefit from additional investment and adjust services accordingly.

Achieving results

The new Strategy will also have implications for how we measure success.

I want to ensure services are focused on people, and that performance measures are results based, rather than transactional outputs and processes.

I’m currently considering options for improving the targeting of Very Low Cost Access (VLCA).

I’ve asked officials for further modelling work to be done. It’s important to understand all the consequences of any proposed changes to funding models.

I also recently announced a new suite of measures that provide a system-wide view of performance.

A number of new measures are proposed for introduction in 2016/17: acute hospital bed days per capita; ambulatory sensitive hospitalisation rates for 0-4 year olds; patient experience of care; amenable mortality; youth access to and utilisation of youth appropriate health services; and the number of babies who live in smoke-free households at six weeks post-natal.

Three of these new measures - acute hospital bed days, ambulatory sensitive hospitalisation rates and patient experience of care - will be financially incentivised in 2016/17, along with the two primary care national health targets.

Placing some funding at risk is about driving quality improvement.

The system level measures and approach to financial incentives will be negotiated into the PHO Services Agreement.

Early intervention and integration

More focus on prevention and early intervention are also key features of the Strategy.

More integrated services delivered in the community will mean people can get the care they need away from hospitals.

Integration and care closer to home will help develop a more efficient and sustainable health system. It will also provide a better experience for the patient.

It requires the wider health team to work closely together.

It also requires us to expand our thinking about who contributes to health by tapping into the skills of individuals, communities and businesses through stronger partnerships.

Smart investments in technology

Developing a clear vision for the future of technology investment in health is another key priority.

Technology has a crucial role to play in making the health system more sustainable, improving efficiency as well as improving health outcomes for New Zealanders.

The new Strategy will ensure we’re well positioned to take advantage of new technology opportunities through developing an adaptive workforce, encouraging innovation, and providing a supportive policy and regulatory environment.

We’re making good progress in a number of areas – for example:

  • Over 100,000 Kiwis now access their health information at any time of the day through patient portals;
  • Telehealth services enable patients and clinicians in remote areas access to the services and training they need;
  • A new National Enrolment Service will provide faster, more accurate information on patient enrolment.

These initiatives all provide care closer to home.

We want to see more patient-centred healthcare as well as the utilisation of new technology to empower patients to self-manage their own health.

Working together

Which leads me to today’s Symposium which brings together health leaders, consumers and leading international experts.

The next two days are a chance for you to engage in robust discussions about how we create a people-powered, technology-enabled health system now and into the future using the Strategy as a guide.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you all for the work that you do, and for taking an active role in shaping our health system.

The new Strategy provides us with a clear path forward to take advantage of new technologies, innovative ideas and opportunities to support the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.