The ideal minister of (public) health: should be in a minister of public health, not a minister of health. (Editorials: Health Minister)

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Author: N. Pearce
Date: Dec. 2002
Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group Ltd.
Document Type: Editorial
Length: 716 words

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I am going to answer this question indirectly, for two reasons. Firstly, because I don't think it is possible to make a prescription for the ideal minister of health as so much depends on personal skills and the current circumstances (apart from the need for her/him to be electable!). Some of the best New Zealand ministers of health have had no obvious qualifications for the job, whereas other ministers with more relevant backgrounds (in medicine or nursing) have been less successful. The second, and more important, reason is that I don't think the question can be answered without first discussing what the role of the health services would ideally be.

The fundamental problem for ministers of health, as well as public health researchers and policy makers, is that the health services at most have a minor influence on the health of a population. What the ministers of finance, employment, social welfare, education, housing, labour, etc, do will inevitably have much greater influence on population health than what the minister of health does. The traditional public health approach to this...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A95688872