New Zealand continues to be a country of trailblazers, leading the way on key social and political milestones.
With a history that includes being the first country to give women the right to vote, the 13th to legalise same sex marriage and in recent history, an extraordinarily fast change in gun laws, it’s easy to see why this reputation of being socially progressive resonates.
As a country that favours and advocates progress, change, improvement, reform and progression towards better conditions for its people and the land they call home, the world continues to watch as more ‘firsts’ are discussed in the media, by politicians, influencers and people. In particular the topic of Health seems to be attracting attention and gaining momentum on the airwaves.
On the health waves
Assisted Dying Bill
In recent months, tensions have risen, and tempers have flared as a parliamentary committee considers the controversial Assisted Dying Bill. Could this be another debatable issue New Zealand is at the forefront? As the country edges closer towards legalising assisted dying and Parliament having voted on this Bill’s second reading on 1st May 2019, will New Zealand join the few countries in the world who have already made assisted dying legal?
The Bill was originally introduced June 2017 and was debated at its first reading in December 2017, passing with 76 votes in favour and 44 against. At the time of release, there were more than 30,000 public submissions - the highest number of submissions received in recent Parliamentary history, according to the Justice Committee. So why has this bill gained so much traction?
It seems much of the conversation is happening through broadcast channels, perhaps unsurprisingly given the prominence of radio in New Zealand. Looking back over the last 7 months, we can see this topical spike in broadcast mentions during April, likely due to the Assisted Dying Bill submission taking place and the several debates that followed.
The Primary Health Care Strategy
Health continues to be a theme of conversation it seems. Alongside the topic of euthanasia, New Zealand’s primary healthcare has also been a hot talking point. As well as a number of developed countries, New Zealand has a publicly funded health system. The Primary Health Care Strategy was introduced in 2001 as New Zealand's official response to evidence promulgating primary care-led health systems for developed countries. The strategy placed an increased emphasis on greater provision and funding of primary health care and anticipated expanded and more collaborative ways of working for health professionals within the sector.
The success of this new primary care-led system has been heavily dependent on the quality and commitment of the primary care workforce, with a clear expectation of closer interprofessional working and collaborative practices. Capitated population-based funding (where a health service is paid in bulk for care provision, regardless of which clinical practitioner undertakes the care) creates potential for different ways of working in this new primary care-led environment. A strong primary health care system is central to improving the health of all New Zealanders and reducing health inequalities between different groups, but when the health care system fails, is it valid for the conversations around the assisted dying Bill to be had?
Digital Health 2020
Another topical discussion within the healthcare sector - the ministry of health’s Digital Health 2020 plan. This plan is a crucial factor to the success of the overall New Zealand Health Strategy and will help New Zealand to keep pace with global trends in healthcare. Characterised by greater use of digitalisation, data analytics and innovative devices are used to increase efficiency and support new forms of treatment, service delivery and preventative healthcare. The question is, do New Zealanders want their health records to be accessible online?
On the pharmaceutical front the conversation continues following the introduction of medicinal marijuana now widely available for thousands of patients after years of campaigning and the recent announcement of the cannabis referendum in 2020. We analysed across various media types (print, online and broadcast) the discussions around legalising the personal use of cannabis for New Zealanders and the media mentions around this topic.
Our analysis showed the most media mentions were again on broadcast channels with 113 per cent more mentions than print and 98 per cent more than online and is on an upward trend. The month of May has already produced more media mentions in half a month (589) than total media mentions in October (587 and as the referendum draws closer in 2020 you’d almost certainly expect this to continue to rise.) Using cannabis for personal use has been legalised in Canada, Uruguay and in multiple US states, and has been decriminalised in many more. By legalising its use in New Zealand, it will reaffirm the progressive reputation that continues to receive media attention worldwide.
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