Media Release: Equality Network - Equity of coronavirus outcomes

06 Apr 2020 1:44 PM | Anonymous

Media release from the Equality Network 31 March 2020

Equity of coronavirus outcomes is worth watching out for

 

We can be justifiably proud of our Government’s approach to the COVID-19 virus crisis. It has acted quickly to recognise the WHO's recommendations. The national 'lock-down’ will do much to stop the spread of the virus, and government's support for people and businesses is to be commended. This will hopefully put us in a better position to face the future and recover from the damage that the virus is doing, and will certainly continue to do. Further, most are following government instructions and people are working together in their communities to make the best of their situations by forming neighbourhood support groups.

However, some cracks are opening and even though the Government is responding with changes to the support packages, many would describe the crisis as a three way issue.

First is the virus and the damage it is doing to people. Then there is no doubt that there will be long term damage to the economy. But thirdly, many people concerned about social justice are now describing the crisis as an inequality crisis and the Government must recognise this.

Those most affected are those on basic incomes or benefits. Many cannot store food and must visit supermarkets every few days. At present they find that shelves are empty of many basic needs, owing to an excess of panic-buying by selfish hoarders. Many cannot afford to top up their cellphones, do not have IT devices for their children to access educational programmes, have no internet access, and do not have strong neighbourhood support groups.

Many of those with mental health problems feel powerless, especially if they live alone. There are still many uncertainties about what will happen, as well as the anxieties of subsisting on a very low benefit or income. And the stress levels for many young people are very high.

And what about the homeless? Those sleeping rough, couch-surfing and living in overcrowded accommodation will further struggle to self-isolate and survive.

COVID-19 is having disproportionate impacts on those most vulnerable. Those at the lower end are suffering, whereas those who are well-off have the resources to cope much better. So it is an inequality crisis and the Government must do something about it. In the Global Financial Crisis the poor suffered most and took much longer than the wealthy to get over the impact. 

The Government must among other things:

  • Significantly increase benefits. Implementing the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group would be a great start
  • Increase the incomes of the low paid by increasing the Working For Families Tax credits, making them available to all and not just to those in the workforce

  • Ensure that there are enough well stocked food outlets so that all can get food when they need to and ensure that panic buying does not result in empty shelves
  • Ensure that the homeless are well looked after. This will significantly slow the spread of the virus, and benefit us all
  • Encourage the establishment of neighbourhood support groups.

With this further support from Government we can get through this together and significantly reduce inequality of outcomes for COVID-19.

Dr. Prudence Stone for the Equality Network: 0272898987 

           
More Equal Societies Are Better For All

The Equality Network is a network of 36 New Zealand organisations such as the PHA, all of whom promote social justice. It operates under the principle that more equal societies are better for all. For more information visit: www.equalitynetwork.org.nz

 

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Letter to the Listener 28 July 2017 in response to Fever Pitch (Listener 21 July 2017)

Catherine Woulfe’s thorough investigation of rheumatic fever brings to the surface a range of important questions not only about this cruel disease, but also wider issues about health policy. The Government’s bold initiative to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever as one of its 'Better Public Service' targets in 2012 certainly raised awareness of rheumatic fever for the general public as well as communities and families directly affected. But even when medical science and the public have a clearer understanding of the immediate causes of rheumatic fever, interventions like the $65m ‘sore throats matter’ still won’t stop the epidemic. 

Ramona Tiatia’s blunt description of the experience of affected families not only painted a picture of the impact on affected families and communities, it also highlighted the invidious choices our health funders face.  How much should we prioritise health spending between response to the urgent need of young people whose lives and potential can be devastated by the disease versus the expense of addressing the economic and social factors that underlie the reasons we have this epidemic at all?   

As several of the clinicians interviewed pointed out, it’s only when the poverty and over-crowded housing issues are addressed that we will make a real difference.

Rheumatic fever illustrates the contradictions in our health system identified in the recent American Commonwealth Fund report. Of the 11 countries the Fund monitors, the work our health professionals do is ranked among the highest. But our overall performance as a health system falls to the middle ranking because of our poor performance on access and equity. The Fund also notes that our per capita expenditure is among the cheapest. 

Failure to invest in real prevention - that is, poverty, housing, good nutrition etc. - will continue to drive conditions like rheumatic fever, whether the immediate cause is strep throat or skin sores, until we invest upstream.

Why not spend more on these conditions - the economic and social determinants of health? 

We all pay in the long run - the young people whose misery we tolerate and whose potential remains unfulfilled, the families whose sacrifices are unrewarded, and the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

Ngā mihi,
Warren Lindberg

CE Public Health Association of New Zealand

                                            

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