Pandemic offers chance for a ‘big reset’

The pivotal role of health promotion and public health in helping to fight Covid-19, the renewed focus on the importance of planetary health and the chance now for a ‘big reset’ were some of the topics discussed at a webinar run by HPF yesterday. Key speakers were HPF’s Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi, Professor Louise Signal Director of the Health Promotion and Policy Research Unit at Otago University and Dr Michael Baker Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago and one of New Zealand’s leading epidemiologists. ‘Covid-19 level 1: Navigating the Future of Health Promotion’ was the second to last in a series of webinars, for which the fees were waived, organised by HPF to inform and provide guidance to organisations and the community through the challenges of Covid-19. The webinar will be posted to HPF’s YouTube channel shortly. WATCH THIS SPACE! Prof Signal said the nation could be very proud of what had been achieved in the field of public health and health promotion during Covid-19 and that there was a huge opportunity to build on that. It was also she pointed out a big opportunity to have a ‘reset’. “We could see Mt Everest and the Himalayas for the first time in decades because there was no smog. We heard birds singing as never before … We’ve seen what a new world can look like, we’ve seen how we can stop the world and it makes us think we can stop climate change.” Prof Signal reflected on last year’s World Health Promotion Conference in Rotorua and its timely focus on ‘planetary health’ and quoted from the two legacy documents, that came out of the conference. She urged people to treat the ‘Waiora – Indigenous People’s Statement for Planetary Health and Sustainable Development’ as a ‘living document.’ Prof Signal also looked at what she described as the ‘second pandemic’ — the economic shock that would occur and how equity would be one of the biggest challenges. Prof Baker praised the remarkable and active response of NZ and the Pacific to the pandemic and how health promotion techniques, such as giving people the responsibility to protect themselves, had come to the fore during the crisis. He said a lot could be learned from that response about public and population health in general. Prof Baker also pointed to the great ‘reset potential’ and the chance to tackle the climate crisis, which although slower than the pandemic, would have long-term effects. Mr Tu’itahi discussed how Covid-19 had made us do things differently and how the community had become more conscious about public health and the health of the planet as the underlying cause of the pandemic. He also explained the accreditation framework that HPF is working on with the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) and how it would help formally recognise the efficacy of health promotion in New Zealand. “While we will be part of a global accreditation system, we also added to the same framework our unique socio-economic and political context, and Te Tiriti to ensure that our workforce is fit for purpose.” Pictured from left: Dr Michael Baker, Dr Viliami Puloka (HPF), Sione Tu’itahi and Prof Louise Signal.