Health inequalities preventable by reasonable ways are not fair, and in health are indicators of distributional imbalance. Worldwide people experience different social conditions that result in manageable differences in health, well-being, quality and length of life. The health system can help in establishing a fairer society and ensuring a fairer distribution of health resources. However, this needs a universal commitment of all people within the health system, including those responsible for policy, resource distribution, service provision and evaluation, hence; attempts to address health and social equity are evident in legislations formulated and implemented by the government.
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Like other countries, New Zealand legislations safeguard the right to health of its people. Of these legislations, the most significant is New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000, which establishes a framework for the delivery of personal and public health and disability support services. PHDA sets strategic objective and goals for health and disability services to improve health and disability outcomes for New Zealanders, to minimise inequities by improving the health ofMaoriand other population groups, to facilitate community participation in personal health, public health, and disability support services and to facilitate access, and the distribution of information for the delivery of health and disability services.
Health Act 1956 embodies provisions for environmental health, infectious diseases, health emergencies, and the national cervical screening programme. It gives the Ministry of Health the function of improving, promoting and protecting public health.
Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 ensures that health practitioners are fit and competent to practice their profession to ensure the public’s safety.
As stated by the Ministry of Health, “The right to health is further protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BoRA) (which applies to discrimination in the public sector); and the Human Rights Act 1993 (HRA) (which applies to the private sector); the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994 (HDC) (which provides a complaints system to deal with issues of informed consent, the rights of consumers and the duties and obligations of health care providers identified in aCode of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights); and the Privacy Act 1993 (which, together with the Health Information Privacy Code 1994, protects individuals’ privacy).”
New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990
It is commonly called as “The Bill of Rights”. It protects people from violations of their civil and political rights by the government, other public bodies and officials. Moreover, it reflects New Zealand’s commitment to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on which the rights and freedom it covers are based.
The Act protects a wide range of rights grouped into the following categories:
- Life and security rights
- Democratic and civil right
- Non-discrimination and minority rights
- Search, arrest and detention rights
- Criminal procedure rights
- Justice rights
Non-discrimination rights refers to the freedom from discrimination on any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination included in the Human Rights Act 1993
Human Rights Act 1993
The Act aims to protect an individual’s human rights and seeks to do this in line with various United Nations conventions and covenants on human rights. It states that it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of personal characteristics. The act also provides a number of exemptions that allow discrimination when it would otherwise be unlawful under the Act.
The rules in the Human Rights Act apply to discrimination by private organizations and individuals. On the other hand, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 covers the discrimination by the government and other public bodies.
Consumers of any health or disability services are protected by rights contained in the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.
Codes of Rights are as follows:
Right 1: Respect- the right to be treated with respect (privacy, needs, values and beliefs.
Right 2: Fair treatment – the right to be free from discrimination, coercion, harassment and sexual, financial or other exploitation at all times.
Right 3: Dignity and Independence- the right to services rendered in such a way that respects their dignity and promotes independence.
Right 4: Service of proper standard- consumers have the right to have services with reasonable care and skill, meet legal professional, ethical and other relevant standards, in correspondence to their needs and ensure minimization of potential harm and maximizes quality of life
Right 5: Effective communication- the right to be given information on their health in a way the consumer comprehends, if needed, he must be provided with an interpreter
Right 6: To be fully informed- to be fully aware of their situation or condition, to be given with sufficient information to make an informed choice
Right 7: Informed choices and informed consent- consumers can only be given services if they have made an informed choice and informed consent unless there are reasonable grounds to believe they are not competent, also includes the right to withdraw at any time
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Right 8: Right to support- consumers have the right to have a support person or people with them when they are receiving services provided it is safe and will not unreasonably affect another consumer’s rights
Right 9: Teaching and research- consumers are to be informed and have the right to refuse when subjected to research or studies
Right 10: Right to complain- consumers have the right to complain, may it be about the healthcare provider or organization.
Health Information Privacy Code 1994
The code sets down specific policies that health professionals must follow when collecting information from consumers and when they can release information to other people. It also specifically enables consumers to have access to their own health information.
Health professionals must collect health information directly from the consumer, not from other people, unless the consumer is deemed not to be competent to provide information. Furthermore, information must be gathered in a manner that is fair and does not unreasonably intrude to their personal affairs.
Generally, heath professionals cannot divulge a consumer’s health information to others unless doing so puts the consumer or another person’s safety and wellbeing at imminent danger.
(2013).Community Law Manual: A practical guide to everyday New Zealand law. Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley
New Zealand Ministry of Health. Retrieved 15 June 2014 http://www.health.govt.nz/new-zealand-health-system/overview-health-system/statutory-framework
Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 15 June 2014 http://www.hrc.co.nz/report/chapters/chapter14/health01.html
 New Zealand Ministry of Health. Retrieved 15 June 2014 http://www.health.govt.nz/new-zealand-health-system/overview-health-system/statutory-framework
 Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 15 June 2014 http://www.hrc.co.nz/report/chapters/chapter14/health01.html
 (2013).Community Law Manual: A practical guide to everyday New Zealand law. Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley
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