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Massey Magazine Issue 13 November 2002

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Symposium to be annual event

The success of last week’s public health symposium has encouraged the Centre for Public Health Research to make it an annual event.

Director Neil Pearce says staff were overwhelmed by the interest shown by the 250 public health professionals attending. Even after the venue switch - from the Museum Building to the Wellington Town Hall’s Ilott Theatre – the new venue was filled to capacity. Health Minister Annette King opened the event.

Professor Pearce says after Professor George Davey Smith’s presentation, a series of researchers from the Wellington and Christchurch Schools of Medicine reviewed current evidence for socio-economic differences in health. Ministry of Health staff then presented a draft policy on how socio-economic inequalities in health should be addressed. Wide ranging discussions followed.

“The symposium has shown the value of having independent university researchers directly involved in these discussions about government policies,” he says.

“Ministry staff can freely and openly discuss their policies with both these researchers, and those directly involved with the implementation. The end result is a greater understanding among all parties. Hopefully, we moved the wire forward a little.”

Professor Pearce says this ability to step back and look at the bigger picture is vital, because socio-economic factors are now the principal determinants of health standards in New Zealand. “Currently we are not doing much to address these, but at least the Ministry is making a start.”

The topic of next year’s symposium is likely to be occupational health.

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