by Kevin Hague
After yesterday’s blog post about the lack of response from the Minister of Health to my written questions it was a nice surprise this morning to see my inbox brimming with responses. Well, sort of.
These responses would be funny if they weren’t so sad.
The first thing you need to know in order to understand the implications of these responses: the Public Health and Disability Act 2000 sets out that the National Health Committee must establish a committee called the Public Health Advisory Committee to provide independent advice to the Minister and to the National Health Committee.
I asked Tony Ryall, when the last meeting of this committee was – he said “30 November 2009 was the last meeting of the Public Health Advisory Committee before the establishment of new terms of reference for the National Health Committee.”
I then asked him who the current members of the committee are – he took a month to research that complex matter and found out that a Mrs Anne Kolbe is “presently the Chair and sole member of the Public Health Advisory Committee”. She also happens to be the Chair of the National Health Committee which is the body in charge of establishing the Public Health Advisory Committee.
One is the loneliest number.
In an Otago Daily Times piece recently Tony Ryall described the committee with this overstatement:
“The committee does exist, but it has not been very active.”
I agree, not very active at all! In fact it could not possibly have been less active. Mr. Ryall has elected not to appoint any members, allocate any Budget, or consider any work programme for the committee. He has let this committee languish because a true public health approach shows up the huge gaps in his work as Minister.
The Committee’s previous work included: New Zealand Evidence for Health Impacts of Transport; Improving Child Oral health and Reducing Child Health Inequalities; The Health of People and Communities – A Way Forward: Public Policy and the Economic Determinants of Health; The Effect of Environmental Factors on the Health of New Zealanders; Men and Health; An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Health Impact Assessment) with a practical how-to guide; Rethinking Urban Environments and Health (and a number of related publications); and The Best Start in Life: Achieving effective action on child health and wellbeing.
What Mr Ryall is missing as Minister is that pulling the focus back on public health is the only way we are going to ensure New Zealand will be a great place to grow up safe, happy and healthy.