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July 12, 2016

Health Disability Action Plan launched

Consulting with families, identifying staff champions, and providing large print health information are some of the actions outlined in the Canterbury and West Coasts' Health Disability Action Plan being launched today.

Canterbury and West Coast District Health Boards Chief Executive David Meates says the Plan has been developed over the past year in consultation with groups that support and advocate for people with disabilities.   That consultation helped define priority actions for the coming year, and for over the next decade. 

The official launch of the Plan, held simultaneously in Greymouth and Christchurch via a telehealth link, was the start of an exciting journey and Mr Meates expected its implementation would have far-reaching positive effects.

"A focus on both staff education, and improving accessibility and inclusion for people with impairments will undoubtedly improve access and inclusiveness for everyone.''

The Plan is a 'living document' that would be reviewed and adapted according to input from ongoing community consultation, Mr Meates says.

"We are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities. Weknow we need to, and can do better.  We will be collecting feedback on services and facilities and equipping staff to deliver appropriate, timely services in a way that suits people with disabilities, and their families or whanau.

"Ultimately, the aim of the Disability Strategy Action Plan is to empower people to be able to make decisions about their own health and wellbeing.''

Latest Statistics NZ data shows 1.1 million New Zealanders, or 24 per cent of the population, have some form of physical, mental or sensory impairment. Half of those aged over 65 have some form of impairment and with the average age of our population on the increase, the rate of disability is expected to rise too.

Recently retired Greymouth school teacher Margaret Woollett has a degenerative disease of the retina called Retinitis Pigmentosa and is classified as legally blind.

"The health system to me is one that should make me feel safe and listened to, and one where people with a disability are treated as individuals and with respect.

"I would say the health system is well on the way to delivering that, but it is excellent it has a plan to make sure people are not in any way discriminated against or made to feel embarrassed or humiliated in needing help," Margaret says.

Ends

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