We have all seen the billboards dotted around busy roading areas and intersections, indicating that yes, it is that time again – time to start voting in the local body political elections. Many will know this as the time when the mayor, councillors and local board members are elected, – but few realise that this is also the time when we get to choose people to represent us on our District Health Boards.
District Health Boards (DHB) are the governing bodies responsible for overseeing the delivery of health and disability services in their districts. They were first set up in the 1970s. The board has up to 11 members; seven elected by the public every three years, and up to four appointed by the Ministry of Health.
They are given a broad set of directives or health priority areas by the Ministry, which are covered by what is known as the New Zealand Health Strategy, designed to give the direction of our healthcare system over the next 10 years. It identifies the key health problems that we should combat as a population, challenges and obstacles, the culture and values that underpin the strategies and how we want the future of healthcare to look if we are effective in these areas.
The Hibiscus Coast is part of the Waitemata District Health board, which serves the areas of the North Shore, Waitakere, Rodney as far north as Wellsford, as far south as the Auckland harbour bridge, and as far west as Muriwai, Piha and Karekare. It’s a sizeable area, which contains 577 000 people – the largest DHB population in the country. Without an effective voice, the healthcare needs of the Coast community could very well get lost in the roar.
I urge you to try to use your voice and actually vote, and secondly, at the very least read the pamphlet that comes with the papers, that describes the background, aims and objectives of the candidates. Having done this, ask yourself is this someone whom I see as being knowledgeable of the health needs of my area, and are they likely to stand up for the Hibiscus Coast population when it comes to health strategy? If the answer is yes, then please tick the box and make your health voice heard, loud and clear.
(As a disclaimer, I unsuccessfully stood for election in the 2013 Waitemata District health board elections! I knew at the time that this would be a long shot, but I felt that if I at least needed to try and stand up and be counted, if I was going to take issue with decisions that the health board made. I am not standing this time around.)