The alarming rise in infectious diseases in the last 20 years, particularly among Maori, Pacific people and the poor, as revealed in just-published research, is a clarion call to all in the health sector, according to New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith.
“This research is a shocking indictment on how New Zealand cares for its most vulnerable people. We must do better and we can do better. Nurses are the largest health workforce and if more nurses were able to work in far more varied ways to provide a whole range of services to high-need communities, that would help turn these statistics around,” she said.
“Many people cannot afford to go to the doctor but timely intervention by nurses working from mobile clinics with high-needs populations in urban settings and isolated rural areas, would help prevent many of these infectious diseases or ensure early intervention. Funding has to be directed to primary health care nurses who can work with high-needs families in their homes. These nurses could do on-the-spot health assessments, catch-up immunisations, overdue cervical smears, sort out any medication issues, provide advice, and guide families to other services. Clearly, the traditional model of GP care is not working for many people,” she said.
NZNO recognised economic and structural issues had a major bearing on population health, she said.
“Unemployment, working for the minimum wage, poverty, cold, damp houses all contribute to poor health, particularly for the youngest and oldest in our communities. Solutions to these problems must be long term but properly resourced primary nursing care, delivered in all sorts of ways to high-need communities – taking services to the people rather than expecting them to come to the services – would be an immediate and effective response to what this research is telling us,” Graham-Smith said.