I think a celebration is about due.
Today the Minister of Health has announced that NZ has had an unprecedented increase in the uptake of immunisation in its children. Not only that, we have closed the traditional longstanding inequity gaps in delivering immunisation in our children – now two year old Maori, Pacific and European children and children from poverty all have very similar coverage rates. WaaaHooo!!!! This is bloody amazing and we should feel really proud. Most health care services have equity gaps and we have shown in immunisation that these are not inevitable but can be overcome.
New Zealand has spent many decades languishing at the bottom of the OECD table when it comes to getting their kids vaccinated. Quite frankly it has been a national shame for years. Until the last twelve years or so we could be smug in the fact that the Aussies were doing worse so maybe that made it ok. Then, practically overnight, Australia fixed its dreadful immunisation coverage rates and NZ no longer had their trans-Tasman company at the bottom of the immunisation table.
In the mid-90s the NZ government decided to solve the problem and over the next decade or so lots of talking and reports and strategies happened. Coverage slowly started to improve thanks to increased awareness of the problem, a united belief that we can and will fix it, champions of the cause at the national, regional and local levels, and improved reporting so that providers had a better idea of their performance. But the real game changers came when firstly, immunisation coverage was placed on a list of health priorities and then targets were set. Alongside this the institution of the National Immunisation Register in 2005 was the essential tool required to monitor progress and find the children missing out. Immunisation coverage rates have tracked rapidly upward ever since for a whole range of reasons: overall a priority focus at all levels, working together, improving organisational performance, feedback loops and teamwork. Amazing how that motivates people!! In particular real credit must go to general practice where the bulk of the service delivery occurs, and to the unsung heroes – the practice nurses – for all the commitment and hard work! Just shows what you can achieve.
Here is picture showing progress from 1995 to 2012
Here is recent progress.
And here is the progress in reducing socioeconomic inequities in immunisaton coverage.
Of course we must not become complacent and there is still much work to be done such as improving our timeliness (already tracking up well!) so keep up the great work NZ!!