A key feature of the new health reforms are locality networks.
But what are they, when are they coming and what are they supposed to achieve?
The job of locality networks will be to keep our health system abreast of the health needs and priorities of communities. They are being developed in quite an open way where we, the community, get to decide much of the detail.
Like the new health system itself, locality networks will be based on a Treaty Partnership model with strong local mana whenua involvement from the outset, typically through Iwi Māori Partnership Boards which are themselves still being formed. A locality network might cover a region like Waitaki District or rural Southland, or an urban centre like Dunedin.
The rest of the detail is either not yet clear or will be left for each locality to decide. In my opinion, locality networks will be run or governed by community representatives but will be engaged with all facets of primary and community healthcare. They will be responsible for ongoing health needs assessments of a community, or perhaps identifying existing service gaps or new ways to deliver services. They will have a strong focus on identifying and addressing inequities in the locality – ethnic, economic, geographic.
Networks will take a broad view of primary healthcare, beyond general practice and pharmacy, to include services such as midwifery, kaupapa Māori services, dentistry, community mental health services, podiatry or physical exercise.
I am picking that the first locality networks will take shape over the next twelve months. They will become the way in which communities influence health service provision, bottom up. In the Southern District we already have something of a precursor organisation, the Community Health Council, which has been very effective network in keeping the community voice front and centre of the Southern District Health Board. We should make sure we deploy the best of what we already have as we construct our future.
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