Alice Springs, September 2014
In September HPF Senior Health Promotion Strategist Karen Hicks represented Aotearoa New Zealand at the Australian Health Promotion Association Conference Equity at the Centre: Action on Social Determinants of Health in Alice Springs. Highlights from the event included
- Sharon Friel’s plenary session on politics, power and people
- Karen’s own presentation on Indigenous health promotion and workforce development
- Martin Laverty’s discussion of the economics of social justice
- Kerry Taylor’s findings about the power of language as a determinant of health
In her presentation Politics, power and people: A game plan for health equity in the 21st century Prof Sharon Friel identified a game plan; actions that health promoters can undertake.
1. Keep equity at the centre.
Rather than focusing on selective social determinants of health (such as housing or education) we need to keep equity as a whole at the centre of everything we do.
2. Frame your messages to fit your audience.
Realpolitik (based on power and on practical factors) rather than ideology is the way to go in the current Australian climate, for example.
Data is powerful. Evidence will support the value of health promotion and initiatives.
Social media is a powerful way to create a movement. It will succeed where traditional media often meet with resistance from the industry that fund them.
3. Release the power.
The strength of health promotion lies in its ability to work collaboratively with a range of people and disciplines. We can release the power of these networks by:
Recognising the skills and capacity of our workforce and empower them to make a difference.
Foster relationships with a wide range of complementary disciplines to create a team effort.
Karen Hicks’ presentation discussed Indigenous health promotion competency and workforce development in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The New Zealand approach is being held up around the world as a model to assist and inform indigenous health promotion.
Focusing on the role an effective health promotion workforce has on in reducing health inequities, Karen introduced three inclusive and equitable capacity building tools:
- TUHANZ (a Treaty Understanding of Hauora in Aotearoa New Zealand),
- the health promotion competencies and the
- health promotion society
She pointed out that the development these tools are informed by indigenous health promotion in consultation with the health promotion workforce.
The main thrust of Martin Laverty’s discussion was that a healthy population is essential for a productive, healthy, growing economy.
In his presentation, The economics of social justice: cost benefit analysis to achieve social determinants action, Laverty asserted that equity is an asset and, which we should examine with an economic lens. We can do this by the way we communicate to governments: framing our arguments according to the left-right orientation of the Governments of the day.
To discuss the subject of equity with a Government positioned to the right it is important to discuss social determinants of health in the context of facilitating an effective economy. Those governments that want people to be responsible for their own health need first to invest in social capital and in social determinants of health such as housing and child development. This enables people to have the capacity and capability to be responsible for their own health.
If addressing a left wing government, on the other hand: we need to frame social determinants of health in relation to fairness.
Martin Laverty is Chair of Social Determinants of Health Alliance
Kerry Taylor’s PhD research at from Flinders University, Alice Springs campus, suggested that language as a social determinant of health is putting indigenous people’s lives at risk.
There are over 200 languages spoken in Australia; most of which are not spoken by health workers. As a result health workers are unable to share a common language or deep dialogue with patients/communities.
The outcomes for services accessed by indigenous communities include:
- high staff turnover due to staff feeling ill equipped,
- poor access to healthcare
- language becoming a significant social determinant of health.
Jo Lawrence-King and Karen Hicks
24 November 2014