Mental health and wellbeing must be a high priority in health system transformation

We welcome the transformational approach taken in the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill, which passed its third reading yesterday. The Commission’s Chair Hayden Wano says the Government now has the means to ensure better mental health and wellbeing outcomes for future generations.

“It is very good to see the Bill’s focus on understanding and addressing the social determinants of health and wellbeing, and on upholding te Tiriti o Waitangi. We welcome efforts to reduce health and wellbeing inequities,” Mr Wano said.

“We want a continued focus on improving mental health outcomes and ensuring a range of views and experiences at the decision-making table.”

As part of its submissions to the Pae Ora Select Committee, the Commission called for the inclusion of a mental health and wellbeing strategy, which was not incorporated in the final Bill.

“Improving mental health and addiction outcomes will require long-term planning and delivery. Including a mental health and wellbeing strategy in the Bill would have made it a non-negotiable feature of the future health system in Aotearoa New Zealand, ensuring future governments continue the commitment of the He Ara Oranga inquiry and Kia Manawanui Aotearoa,” Mr Wano said.

“Irrespective of its inclusion in law, we call on the Minister of Health and the Ministry of Health to make a commitment to delivering such a strategy as a priority in the planning of the transformed health system in Aotearoa. We know how important mental health and wellbeing is to people and echo their calls for a continued focus on delivering tangible improvements.”

The Commission welcomes the much-needed investment in primary and community care since 2019, the Budget 2022 investment in specialist mental health and addiction services, and the introduction of the Government’s mental health pathway, Kia Manawanui Aotearoa. These are all important steps in transforming the mental health and addiction system, as described in He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.

“The Government now has an opportunity through Pae Ora reform to build on this kaupapa. Improved mental health, addiction and wellbeing outcomes for people in Aotearoa will require strong leadership and commitment from the Minister, the Ministry, and the new health entities. We urge the Government, particularly at this time of transition, to make sure transforming the mental health and addiction system remains a priority,” Mr Wano said.

“Through the reforms, the Commission will work closely with the Ministry of Health, Health New Zealand, and te Mana Hauora Māori (the Māori Health Authority) to support, guide, and monitor a health system that prioritises mental health and wellbeing, and that puts mental health and addiction services front and centre.”