In August 2016, 40 per cent of the residents of Havelock North were struck down by a serious bacterial infection. Eminent medical researcher David Skegg argues that the outbreak highlights weaknesses in our country’s health infrastructure – weaknesses already evident in problems ranging from child nutrition to cancer. New Zealand, Skegg explains, must invest more in public health and find the political will needed to oppose the forces that damage health. Personal health care is important, but we neglect public health at our peril.
Sir David Skegg is an epidemiologist and public health physician. After training in medicine in New Zealand, he was a Rhodes scholar and then a lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Oxford. At the age of 32 he returned to the Chair of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago. From 2004 to 2011, he was the Vice-Chancellor of the University.
Professor Skegg’s research has been mainly on cancer causes and control, contraceptive and drug safety, and reproductive health. He has chaired many government bodies, including the Health Research Council, the Public Health Commission, and the Science Board. He was also the President of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, which is the national academy for science, technology and the humanities. For more than three decades, he has been an adviser to the World Health Organization in Geneva.
Collected in this BWB Text are responses to this phenomenon from a diverse range of New Zealand economists and commentators. These voices speak independently to the relevance of Piketty’s conclusions. Is New Zealand faced with a one-way future of rising inequality? Does redistribution need to focus more on wealth, rather than just income? Was the post-war Great Convergence merely an aberration and is our society doomed to regress into a new Gilded Age?