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Economic Sector Ignoring Social, Health Inequalities Reports

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Economic Sector Ignoring Social, Health Inequalities Reports

Wellington, Feb 3 NZPA - While New Zealand has developed innovative annual social reports, some government departments often are not using them to address health inequities over the past decade, according to latest research.

The Otago University report, just published by the World Health Organisation, examines how well government agencies and civil society have used and applied information on social indicators and inequalities gathered by the Ministry of Social Development's annual social reports.

The study found that although the ministries of health and social development made good use of the reports, other government departments often did not.

Head of research Frank Pega criticised the Treasury and agencies concerned with national policies relating to economic development for lack of enthusiasm.

"Economic theory and empirical evidence suggest that health inequalities can constrain economic development, so it is surprising that budgetary and economic development departments, and the commercial sector, did not make better use of the social reports for strategic planning, policy development and decision-making."

Many people, interviewed for the study, expected the economic sector to consider and be guided by the findings of the social reports, Mr Pega told NZPA.

The report, however, pointed out that despite little impact on the business sector, outside the government sector, the reports had considerable impact, especially amongst health advocates, service providers, Maori organisations, academics and the media.

Mr Pega said he was unable to comment on the lack of interest shown by the economic sector to the reports and did not want to speculate on their reasons.

"A good strategy would be to engage the economic sector more broadly because the idea behind social reporting was that all relevant sectors needed to be involved to address complex issues effectively."

Tackling New Zealand's wide ethnic inequalities in obesity, for example, required changes from the commercial food sector, and public education through the health sector, Mr Pega said.

"A multiplicity of social factors influence the health of New Zealanders, and this underlines the importance of acting on an annual report card of social indicators which determine our health status."

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