On 21 April 2021, Minister of Health Andrew Little announced a plan to significantly shift the operating structure of our health system. As with Governments before him, Minister Little set a direction for the health sector which he believes will reformat how we deliver services to meet the needs of a contemporary Aotearoa.
For some, the Minister’s health reforms went further than had been anticipated based on the details of the Health and Disability System Review findings and recommendations in Pūrongo whakamutunga, and this has resulted in mixed reactions and feelings. This is not unexpected as it is only natural for people to observe what changes mean through the lens of their own realities.
However, for other people working across our health sector and who access services, the changes have created a sense of hope. A sense that the data and evidence relating to the inequities and challenges that exist within our health system are no longer sustainable and require different solutions and real action.
So how can benchmarking help us in times of change?
By its very nature, benchmarking is the process of collaboration to make meaning of data. In times of change, it can operate as an equaliser, giving voice to tāngata whai ora, whānau and communities who are not able to directly share their experiences or be physically included in policy setting or official decision-making processes. When used effectively, benchmarking encourages people to put attention on comparative analysis and questioning, creating space for robust data scrutiny so that learning can occur.
Using an equity lens over data metrics means participants in the benchmarking process can better identify the areas of greatest need for different socioeconomic and cultural groups, equipping decision makers with the information they need to develop policies and prioritise the allocation of resources to where they will have the most significant positive impact.
At the heart of the upcoming changes, alongside our tāngata whai ora and whānau, is our health workforce. Both He Ara Oranga and Pūrongo whakamutunga acknowledge the critical role the workforce plays in realising the changes necessary to deliver system transformation that achieves better, more equitable health outcomes. It is normal to feel fear when faced with uncertainty, and to feel overwhelmed when the challenges are big. Therefore, it will be critical on this journey to include the voices of our workforce as essential data points that provide context and meaning to our data.
Change is learning; and together we have the capacity, the resources, and the knowledge to create a health system where informed continuous improvement and collective action drives better wellbeing for all.