October 31, 2019

The future of the public health system

What is meant by health?

The Government’s financial statements show that $16,756 million was spent on health for the year ended 30 June 20181. This health budget covered doctors, hospitals, script subsidies etc. We must ask ourselves, what is meant by health? It appears that our health system is actually a disease and illness response system rather than a health system. A disease and illness response system is incredibly necessary and important, and those involved in the sector complete lifesaving treatments and complex diagnostics daily. However, in the twenty-first century survival isn’t our daily goal, instead people are seeking health, wellbeing and happiness.

Our current system does not reflect this; we need to consider what we want our future public health system to be.

A complementary system that provides health, wellbeing and happiness needs to be developed to support our current medical system. This complementary system will essentially be a preventative health system that will assess an individual holistically (considering the individuals relationships, lifestyle, diet, exercise, sleep and mental health) to provide health care. This approach to health is similar to the Te Whare Tapa Wha model of health that was developed by Sir Mason Durie. This preventative health and wellbeing system will aim to prevent individuals from ending up in the medical system. 

The diseases most of us face today are chronic diseases, like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hormonal disorders, and dementia. All of these diseases are heavily influenced by diet, lifestyle, environment, and genetics and they develop along a continuum, over time2.  It is these diseases that would be dealt through the preventative health system to prevent the individual ending up in the medical system. 

Parsley Health, an American company, is an example of a primary care medical practice that uses this whole-body approach. The founder of Parsley Health, Dr. Robin Berzin, states “I started Parsley Health because I saw how broken healthcare is today. We are making ourselves sick as a population, through how we eat, move, and live while traditional medicine layers on more pills, waiting for us to get sicker.”3  At Parsley Health, “they are building a new operating system for primary care medicine – one that combines modern medicine and smart technology with a functional, whole body approach.”4  Although our health system is very different to America, the reasons people are getting these diseases are the same. As such, Parsley Health has been referenced to show that there are case studies of how this preventive health system could operate.   

Individuals currently access the preventative health system at the expense of their wallet, but the cost of the preventative health system should be borne by the government rather than the individual. Otherwise, remaining with the status quo, will continue to prevent those that cannot afford the preventative health system from accessing it.

This is another barrier to wellbeing and it is further disadvantaging those that are already disadvantaged.

A true wellbeing approach would involve the government considering a brand new health system that is led by experts in wellbeing, not just experts in illness. It would involve the government contemplating the future of the public health system and considering how a preventative health system that provides health and wellbeing could be developed to support our current medical system.

This future wellbeing system could lead the way in health and diminish our reliance on the medical system.