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Public Health: improving people’s health at the community and population level

Public health seeks to improve the health of communities and populations (or sections of the community) and reduce inequalities in health status. The Ottawa Charter approach is used in New Zealand for planning public health strategies. This framework recognises that to improve the health of populations and individuals, there is a need to address the determinants of health, rather than just providing health services.

If people are to be responsible for the health of their families and themselves, they need:

  • protection from environmental factors that could lead to health risks;
  • adequate housing;
  • a liveable income;
  • employment;
  • educational opportunities;
  • a sense of belonging and being valued; and
  • a sense of control over life circumstances.

Local public health response to novel coronavirus COVID-19

Community and Public Health stood up their EOC in just two hours in late January 2020 in response to COVID-19 with staff ceasing ‘business as usual’ work. Every effort, hour and individual has been focused on the response since then, and will likely be the last organisation to wind down. Our staff have been involved in the local COVID-19 response in many ‘behind the scenes’ ways across Canterbury, South Canterbury, West Coast and the Chatham Islands.

Latest Public Health Plans

The Canterbury DHB Public Health Plan presents the public health outcomes that the Canterbury DHB’s Public Health Unit (Community and Public Health) works towards. The plan also outlines the key priorities for the 13 programme areas under which this work is structured.

Public Health Plans are also compiled for the South Canterbury and West Coast DHBs. This is because Community and Public Health is also the Public Health Unit for these DHBs.

The development of the 2020-21 Public Health Plans are delayed due to the COVID-19 response.

How Community and Public Health applies the Ottawa Charter

As part of Community and Public Health’s overall population approach to the protection of people’s health and the prevention of avoidable illnesses, staff take a close interest in the social environments, settings where people live, work, and travel within the our region. This includes what kind of conditions need to be in place to enable people to reduce risks and live in a way which is healthier.

This approach gives a public health perspective to local and regional planning regarding developing, progressing and monitoring social and physical environments. Key considerations are the public health impacts of these social environments, with special emphasis on identified high needs groups. Central to this work is networking and working collaboratively with identified organisations. Promoting and optimising healthy outcomes for the public is central in all decision making.

The key ways that Community and Public Health achieves results includes:

  • building healthy public policies
  • creating supportive environments
  • strengthening community action
  • developing personal skills
  • reorienting services towards health gain.

Examples of population programmes delivered to individuals include supporting immunisation to keep groups of people healthy, screening people to identify early stage disease to enable more effective treatment, and smoking cessation programmes.

Core Public Health Functions for New Zealand

This report describes the public health principles and the core public health functions. These are combined in various ways by a range of providers to produce the public health services essential for a highly-functioning New Zealand health system.

The report also outlines the implications of this core functions model for public health service delivery.

We are a partner in the South Island Public Health Project

The South Island Public Health Project grew out of the Healthy South initiative, and from a gathering of the three South Island PHUs in November 2009. The SI DHB Chief Executives have agreed that this Public Health Project will be a workstream under the SI Health Services Planning/South Island Health Alliance process. Key features of the project are:

  • Based on collaborative partnership leadership with management and clinical leadership.
  • Strong focus on planning together with the aim of working towards one Public Health Annual Plan for the South Island, with sub-regional variations for implementation
  • Identifying and progressing opportunities for sharing strategic work (e.g. submissions, policy papers) that are of benefit across the region

The vision for the project is that the three Public Health Units (PHUs) in the South Island plan services together, deliver locally according to District needs, provide consistent services, have shared protocols and ways of working, share information and resources effectively, and utilise the range of expertise across the South Island.

Public Health Career Opportunities

A range of skills and expertise is needed to achieve Community and Public Health’s objectives and goals in the communities we serve.



Download or order copies from the Community Health Information Centre.


Page last updated: 05/09/2021

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