New Zealand’s healthcare system needs a check-up

Profeesor Paul McDonald speaking during the Auckland leg of his nationwide tour.

More than 500 people turned out to hear Massey University Professor Paul McDonald’s thoughts on New Zealand’s health and healthcare challenges during his nationwide speaking tour.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Health embarked on a six city speaking tour visiting Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, New Plymouth, Hawke’s Bay and Palmerston North.

Professor McDonald is calling for a rethink of our health system as New Zealand and the world urgently looks for solutions on how to more efficiently treat and prevent chronic illness, keep seniors healthy, improve worldwide nutrition, reduce health and income inequity and repel infectious disease.

Hundreds of Massey alumni, health professionals and students took up the challenge and joined the discussion.

Professor McDonald says: “It was wonderful to meet our alumni and learn how they are making an impact. It was a great opportunity to introduce them to the College of Health and show them how it is shaping the new New Zealand and taking the best of New Zealand to the rest of the world.”

A blueprint for change

Professor McDonald says there are viable, evidence-informed alternatives for dealing with the country’s future health and healthcare challenges:

  • Stop thinking of health as a set of medical challenges that have social and economic consequences. Instead, approach health (physical, emotional, spiritual, social) as a set of social, economic, political, cultural, and educational challenges (and opportunities), which sometimes produce medical consequences. 
  • Reduce poverty and increase social connectivity and inclusion – because it is good for health and the economy.
  • Stop blaming seniors for rising healthcare costs when the problem is largely caused by an ill-equipped health system being asked to deal with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and dementia.
  • Put more emphasis on, and funding into, disease prevention at a population and policy level, rather than through acute and primary care.
  • Protect health-enabling measures within international trade agreements.
  • Support healthy ageing by rethinking the design and accessibility of houses, transport, food, education, recreation, and complex care for seniors.
  • Protect dignity and autonomy at end-of-life, including more advanced care planning and hospice care. 
  • Increase public and private sector investment to make New Zealand food the most nutritious and environmentally sustainable in the world – a goal that will improve health as well as long-term exports. 
  • Increase investment and research to track and fight infectious disease through microbiological innovations.


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