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The Public Health Association supports the public health leadership demonstrated by New Zealand’s government in its pandemic response to COVID-19. Many more people would have died without this rapid evidence-based operation.
CEO Dr Prudence Stone says many PHA members expressed their disappointment to her this week that a few members of the academic community were publicly questioning New Zealand’s response to COVID-19.
“The aim for our government is to ensure that New Zealand does not see the kinds of scenes we see playing out every day on our TV screens: the chaos, confusion and utter despair in European cities and now the United States” Dr Stone said.
“When we don’t see these same results here, we shouldn’t jump to a conclusion that COVID-19 in Aotearoa is, as Simon Thornley says, ‘not the disaster we feared’. It would have been without the government action. We averted it through preventative policy. That’s public health in action.”
Members of the Public Health Association are mindful, however, that New Zealand’s Health & Disability System, as well as its Welfare System, were under review as New Zealand went into lockdown. The Health & Disability System Review panel looked at evidence showing health outcomes were inequitable in New Zealand by race, mental health, sexuality and disability. The Welfare Expert Advisory Group saw evidence that New Zealanders seeking income support were not being treated with dignity by our welfare system.
“In a pandemic, this inequity of health outcomes and poor service to New Zealanders needing income support will only be amplified,” Dr Stone said, “unless we take action on addressing these inequalities with the same public health approach by our leaders.”
Dr Stone said the Public Health experts among the PHA’s membership acknowledged that elimination of the COVID-19 virus may not be possible globally, unless and until a vaccine is discovered and distributed everywhere. Elimination within New Zealand should however be possible before any global end-point, provided that the present level of public health action is maintained and combined with effective longterm border protections.
“On both fronts, national and global, the public health approach is necessary to not only prevent the disease spreading, but eliminate it one day altogether,” said Dr Stone. “New Zealand must ensure it can import a vaccine, if and when one is developed, with an equitable distribution programme to implement its supply here in Aotearoa. If there are roadblocks to either, government should clear them now. That’s more public health action to come that is clearly necessary.”
The Public Health Association’s Asian Caucus Chair Dr Lifeng Zhou hopes the public remains assured of the measures being taken by government and follows the appropriate code of the Alert Level government makes official throughout this pandemic. New Zealand’s approach is being heralded internationally as a best case scenario and example of the Public Health framework being applied by decision makers.
“We all need to draw on our common humanity and be explicit about our values. Recognising this will help us make good decisions in difficult situations so that, for example, the need to impose restrictive measures and to protect ourselves does not conflict with fairness, respect, and neighbourliness” Dr Lifeng Zhou said.
Contacts for Media:
Dr Prudence Stone, CEO 027 2898987
Dr Lifeng Zhou, Asian Caucus Chair Lifeng.Zhou@email@example.com
Francis Kewene is a Māori Caucus representative on PHA's Executive Council.
As a former Māori health promoter, a Health Protection Officer, and now a Hauora Māori Professional Practice fellow in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago, I felt a responsibility and obligation to volunteer to help with contact tracing for coronavirus.
Over a week ago I received an email inviting me to a training session at our local Public Health Unit. The tension as I arrived in the building was palpable. I arrived in a large board room already filled with familiar and unfamiliar faces. Everyone was sitting side by side, less than a metre from each other, which under the circumstances surprised me, and on one wall there was a screen filled with people in a number of different sites on Zoom.
The person leading the session launched straight into how we would conduct the contact tracing, the survey we needed to run through, and the resources we would need to support this work. I could feel the tension rising in my body. I could feel my brain spin as I felt a silent scream build: “Where is the whakawhanaungatanga? Where is the humanity of introductions? This is not my normal. This is not my normal!”
Then I could no longer hold the scream when I was told we would need to apologise before we asked the ethnicity question in the survey as “this question often makes people uncomfortable”. I was shocked. Enough apologising.
“Enough!” I raised my voice in a room of people who did not know me and whom I did not know.
“And by the way, if we are going to be working together, if we are to support one another, let’s connect first. We should have had a moment at the start of this sessions to introduce ourselves to one another.”
Silence. The training recommenced.
Each and everyone of us is doing our bit during these challenging times. Everyone is doing their best, but we know that doing our best must not be to the exclusion of Māori and our Māori normal. Our normal has changed, but we can still stay connected, we can still support, and find strength through our whakapapa.
My name is Francis Kewene, I am a small piece of paua in the eye socket of my tupuna carved on the wall of our wharenui. I am a mama, a sister, a cousin, and aunt. I am a worker, I am part of a team, I am part of a community trying to do what we can.
We as members of the Public Health Association choose to be here because we believe in the power of the collective. I reach out to you all, and ask members, particularly the Māori members of the PHA to raise our collective voice. Share what is happening in your communities with one another through this pānui. Through our email links we can support each other with our skills, expertise and aroha.
Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā National Māori Pandemic Group
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:
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
Dr Lifeng Zhou, Chair of the PHA's Asian Caucus calls for everyone to work together, all countries/territories, ethnic groups, faiths and cultures, in the containment of the Pandemic COVID-19:
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) declared (11 March 2020) that the outbreak of COVID-19 in the world is a ‘pandemic’. A pandemic is defined as the uncontrolled worldwide spread of a new disease.
COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, officially named as SARS-Cov2, is a new illness that can affect lungs, airways and other organs. According to WHO as of 18 March 2020, there were 191,127 confirmed cases reported globally with 7807 deaths. China and the Republic of Korea had significantly declining epidemics, but the spread of SARS-Cov2 in other parts of the world is significant.
WHO calls for all countries and territories to take urgent and vigilant action to work together, to do the right things with calm, to protect all citizens of the world.
However, since the emergence of COVID-19 we have seen instances of public stigmatisation, the rise of racism and use of stereotypes against some population groups. This is harmful and unethical, as stigma can, according to WHO, 1) drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination, 2) prevent people from seeking health care immediately and 3) discourage them from adopting healthy behaviours.
While we’re very happy to see the Ministry of Health show its understanding of and respect for the Chinese culture when 157 people from Wuhan were held in quarantine for two weeks, we are also dismayed to hear how Chinese people have experienced stigma and discrimination associated with public fear of the novel coronavirus in New Zealand.
The recent Public Health Expert blog of “Getting Through Together: Ethical Values for a Pandemic” written by Ruth Cunningham, Charlotte Paul and Andrew Moore, provides balanced ethical considerations when responding to a pandemic like COVID-19. We all need to draw on our common humanity and be explicit about our values. As they put it: “Recognising this will help us make good decisions in difficult situations so that, for example, the need to impose restrictive measures and to protect ourselves does not conflict with fairness, respect, and neighbourliness.”
The PHA together with its Asian Caucus call each of us to be intentional and thoughtful when communicating on social media and other platforms, showing supportive behaviours as we fight against our common health threat: the novel coronavirus.
Be Safe by following public health advice;
Be Smart by being informed from accurate sources;
Be Kind and support one another to fight COVID-19
We wish you all the best in this difficult time of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will try to continue to work and function from home as normally as we can.
Our Zoom facility is on hand for all branches, caucuses and SIGs to deploy for remote face to face meetings online. Please contact Fiona (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Alyssa (email@example.com) for support to plan your zoom meetings.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) - what is it?
Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses which includes the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
In January 2020, officials identified a new coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, formerly known as 2019-nCoV). The disease caused by this new virus has been named COVID-19 (CO for the coronavirus family, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year the virus emerged).
See MoH's latest media release for a summary of the current status.
'These alert levels specify the public health and social measures to be taken. Nationwide, New Zealand is currently at Level 4 – Eliminate. This means that it is likely that the disease is not contained. See more information about Alert levels.
Find out how to look after your mental health and wellbeing when you have to stay at home.
We are seeking expressions of interest from health and care professionals who are able and willing to work for a limited amount of time as part of the national strategic approach to managing COVID-19. Find out more'
For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.
See the MoH website for detailed information on the virus. The MoH has developed a useful 'what you need to know' sheet. MoH also has a Facebook page to keep you up to date on the situation.
Strictly observe good hand and respiratory hygiene. This means:
The measures above are especially important for people who have existing health conditions, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease or compromised immune systems.
Book your flu vaccination asap
Another very important thing you can do is to get vaccinated against influenza as soon as you can.
More than 800,000 influenza vaccines have been distributed to vaccination providers.
This ensures vaccines are available to vaccinate priority groups, such as those over 65 years old, pregnant women, children with a history of respiratory illness and frontline workers.
It's worth noting that influenza immunisation doesn’t normally start until April, and the flu season doesn’t normally start until late May.
Be patient while our health system works through any backlogs. There will be more stock available in the first half of April.
Flutracking is an online survey which asks if you have had a fever or cough in the last week and which can help us track COVID-19.
Registering online will help our surveillance efforts by providing early detection of community spread of the flu and also of COVID-19 symptoms.
This is a practical thing everyone can do to help monitor flu and COVID-19 symptoms throughout NZ.
Please take care of yourselves and those around you.
We recently made a submission to the Justice Select Committee on the Inquiry into 2019 Local Elections and Liquor Licensing Trust Elections.
We recently made a submission to the Justice Committee on the Sexual Violence Legislation Bill. We will be appearing in person before the Committee to give an oral submission next week in support of our written submission.
We recently wrote a submission jointly with the NZ College of Public Health Medicine, and an endorsement of Ora Taiao's submission, on the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Bill.
Finally the movie you've all been waiting for! PHA's scorecards for the DHB elections!
In this video our CEO Dr Prudence Stone, Wellington branch member Dr Jude Ball and the previous branch co-chairs Ramil Adhikari and Nita Brown discuss PHA's scorecard campaign. Three of our branches, Wellington, Canterbury/West Coast and Otago/Southland, were involved this year in this very successful campaign and we hope next time around more of our branches will join in.
Report by Governing Council Representative to Asia Pacific, Adrian Te Patu (PHANZ) World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA)
The Institute of Global Health, reception of the World Health Assembly (WHA)
The Swiss Permanent Mission of Geneva invited the WFPHA governing council, including the Indigenous Working Group, to join the 194 member country delegations to the WHA opening reception. This high level soirée was a perfect opportunity to promote the WFPHA, indigenous public health and the PHANZ. I was able to spend time with Pacific Forum delegates to discuss public health issues unique to our region, and for those who live in Aotearoa. It was particularly rewarding to meet the delegation from Tuvalu who was to host the Pacific Forum in August. Our host Switzerland promoted various global health-based search initiatives from academic and research partners that base themselves in Geneva. This special evening was co-hosted by the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
WFPHA International Vaccination & Capacity Workshop 2019
It was my privilege to offer an indigenous lens as a member of an international panel of the International Vaccination & Capacity Workshop hosted on May 22nd at the University of Geneva. This was enormously successful, registering over 300 public health professionals, doctors, diplomats, professors and students from across the globe. This was in addition to over 25,000 live-stream engagements. The workshop was full of robust and stimulating discussions between the audience (both in person and online) and our 20 high-level eloquent speakers from various health sectors around the world. These interactions offered a strong interdisciplinary insight into the challenges and potential solutions around vaccinations and capacity. Speakers discussed strategies and good practices to increase primary prevention through increased capacity (from human to infrastructure to sustainable investments and beyond) applied to the vaccination context. From the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to Strep A vaccination strategy research to arresting rheumatic heart disease in south & west Auckland, the full day workshop was a truly valuable global discussion.
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD s) Workshop - Indigenous Working Group (IWG) of WFPHA
I was able to co-host and speak at this workshop which began by acknowledging that NCDs contribute to 70% of deaths globally. Indigenous people, however, often carry a higher burden of disease. Australian Minister for Indigenous Health and Aged Care opened the workshop via video. Minister Wyatt had previously funded the IWG and expressed his continued support for the IWG and the work we are undertaking. The diverse range of speakers included Professor Laetitia Rispel from South Africa, President of the WFPHA; Mr. Patrick Mwesigye, founder of the Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum; Summer May Finlay, Co-Vice Chair of the IWG, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Vice President of the Public Health Association of Australia and me. The topics included the significant burden of disease, Indigenous-led solutions, the impact of racism and the need for Indigenous data collection. The workshop called for specific Indigenous reporting under the World Health Organization’s Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Agenda includes 17 goals and states that “no one will be left behind”.
Governing Council (GC) AGM and WFPHA General Assembly
The three functional meeting requirements for GC members in attendance at Geneva this year included the AGM which focused on finance, the Rome Congress and new appointments to the GC. The General Assembly allowed each member nation and working group to offer a summary of the year. This year a Skills Building Seminar on Governance specially dedicated to navigating the international political minefield was included.
16th World Congress on Public Health Rome 2020 - International Congress Council (ICC)
In a very unusual move, three significant public health associations have combined to stage this event in Rome next year. They are the WFPHA, the Italian Society of Hygiene, Preventive Medicine and Public Health (Sltl) and the European Public Health Association (EUPHA). I am a WFPHA member of the organising committee or ICC which is chaired by Prof Martin McKee, CBE, Professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. We are expecting four to five thousand attendees.
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War - Side event
It was my privilege to join a team of health professionals to present and discuss the role of health workers in reducing the likelihood of nuclear war. I was asked by the US delegate to the WFPHA to give a NZ and Pacific lens to this discussion.
The PHA – a strong and informed collective voice for a healthy and well New Zealand.
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