Media release from Ministry of Health:

The Ministry of Health welcomes the recently-published Healthy Families NZ Summative Evaluation Report that highlights what’s working well and where change is needed to make the Healthy Families NZ initiative more effective and more equitable.

Healthy Families NZ is a large-scale chronic disease prevention initiative that brings together community leadership to improve people’s health in their own communities and prevent long-term conditions such as heart disease, cancers, overweightness and obesity, and harm from alcohol.

The Report was commissioned by the Ministry and authored by Massey University researchers, using a mixture of quantitative data and qualitative sources such as case studies. It provides an important evaluation of the first stage of the Healthy Families NZ initiative which will inform stakeholders across the health system, including Healthy Families NZ providers and communities.

Given the time period covered by the Report, and the timing of data collections such as the New Zealand Health Survey, it was not expected that the quantitative indicators would yet demonstrate any meaningful impact from Healthy Families NZ through reducing risk factors such as smoking, poor nutrition and obesity. This is acknowledged throughout the Report, which notes the need for context around the data sets. The initiative has been set up for on-going monitoring.

Healthy Families NZ is health promotion and equity in action at a grassroots level, supporting communities to improve health. As the Report notes, each Healthy Families NZ provider’s priorities are tailored specifically to the local community. These are spread from the Far North to Invercargill and were chosen because of higher-than-average rates of preventable chronic diseases, higher-than-average rates of risk factors for these diseases, and/or high levels of deprivation, and their readiness to initiate improvements.

Each Healthy Families NZ community has chosen its own priorities for improving health and wellbeing depending on the needs and strengths of the local community. For example, Healthy Families Lower Hutt has prioritised smoke free environments as a focus and has been making real gains in this area. Lower Hutt now has one of the most comprehensive outdoor smoke free policies.

This flexibility means some Healthy Families NZ providers have work ahead of them to make such large gains in other areas, including nutrition and obesity, as the Report identifies. This flexibility is an inherent part of the initiative and is what makes it uniquely placed to improve health equity.

The ten Healthy Families NZ providers are comprised of key partners including district health boards (DHBs), iwi, local government, sports organisations and Pacific organisations. These groups are working together to support communities to think differently about the underlying causes of poor health and to make changes to their social and physical environment, which results in better health.

The Ministry of Health sincerely thanks the Report’s authors for their work. You can read the Healthy Families NZ Summative Evaluation Report at: - https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/healthy-families-nz-summative-evaluation-report

The recently-published Tier 1 statistics 2017/18 tool also provides detailed information about the health of New Zealanders - https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/tier-1-statistics-2017-18-new-zealand-health-survey

Photo by Kyle Myburgh on Unsplash