A report released today recommends a greater role in the public health system for the more than 30,000 professionals who make up the country’s second biggest clinical workforce.
Allied health professionals, like chiropractors, podiatrists and psychotherapists, are underused and could make a much more significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report says.
Allied Health Aotearoa NZ (AHANZ) spokesperson Kath Eastwood says the redesign of the system following the Health and Disability System Review 2020 offers the perfect opportunity for significant change in how people access allied health care.
“Our aims align very closely with those of the Government. We share the objectives of equity, effectiveness and efficiency. This is a once in a lifetime chance to design a health care system that meets those aims and puts people’s needs at the centre. Our members can make a significant contribution to preventing and managing many long-term conditions, particularly in Maori and Pacific communities.
“The report offers tremendous potential for a whole new approach to health care and to rethinking the part allied health can play. We know from the report that there is unmet need because of the cost and the pressure on the system, and this leads to even more people needing hospital care,” said Kath Eastwood.
“The ideal is for people to have access to a wrap-around service where they are referred to the appropriate health professional in a timely manner. Our members are ready and waiting to meet this demand.”
The report says that bold funding, cultural and information changes will be key to delivering this model. The report identifies the need for professional silos to be broken down and much greater collaboration between providers.
“To enable us to make a real difference we need a system shift that gives the public choices. It has to be publicly-funded and it requires a cultural change so that referrals to allied health professionals become the norm.”
The report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Optimising the allied health profession for better, more sustainable integrated care, can be downloaded from the AHANZ website: www.alliedhealth.org.nz/publications.html
Allied health covers a broad range of around 50 health professions that work alongside medicine, nursing and dentistry to make up the NZ healthcare system.
AHANZ has 32 national allied health associations in its membership that collectively represent well over 30,000 individual allied health professionals.
Our members touch the lives of the majority of Kiwis at different points, helping meet their physical, nutritional, mental, emotional, and social health needs.
These diverse experts represent an integral and often forgotten part of the team, addressing a multitude of conditions and also helping to preserve and enhance wellbeing.
They include the more established professions such as acupuncture, audiology, chiropractors, dietitians, physiotherapy, psychologists and social workers, through to the emerging exercise professionals and physiologists, and lesser known but no less important hospital play specialists, lab workers, orthotists and prosthetists, and sterilisation services.
Working better together and with a different funding and referral model, allied health has the potential to contribute further and help resolve many of the systemic issues, inequities, and poor outcomes that exist in our current broken system.