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Social, economic and cultural determinants of health.

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National Health and Disability Services Committee, ,

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This report complies evidence on social, cultural and economic determinants of health in New Zealand, summarising the major determinants of health including income, employment, education, housing, culture and ethnicity, and social cohesion, and recent trends in these determinants in New Zealand, and outlines the ways in which these determinants might affect health and give rise to inequalities in health.

It also provides a rationale for acting on the determinants of health in order to improve population health and reduce health inequalities as well as possible evidence based interventions that act on these determinants to improve population health and reduce socioeconomic inequalities in health. On housing, the report highlights the negative impact of poor housing conditions, such as overcrowding, dampness, and cold, on both physical and mental health in New Zealand. It notes a significant rise in serious housing needs from the late 1980s to mid-1990s. High housing costs have led to reduced spending on essential health-related items like nutritious food and healthcare services. Rental costs have surged, particularly due to market-driven rents for state housing. This increase disproportionately affects low-income families, causing them to allocate a larger part of their income to housing. The shortage of affordable housing has resulted in overcrowding and the use of substandard temporary accommodations. This situation has been linked to a rise in hospital admissions for diseases associated with overcrowding, such as meningococcal disease and respiratory infections. The report recommends that the Minister of Health should urge the Minister of Housing to prioritise health in housing policy. It calls for a comprehensive assessment of serious housing needs focusing on affordability, overcrowding, and physical conditions, particularly where children’s health is at risk. The Ministers of Health, Housing, Education, and Social Welfare are urged to collabourate on initiatives like Strengthening Families and developing strategies for rural housing. It also suggests piloting local initiatives to improve housing access and quality for low-income families, and exploring financial assistance for heating costs in low-income households.

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