Issue 1 • 2021

Health equity in Aotearoa New Zealand has been lef
Make It The Norm – a call for health equity in Aotearoa New Zealand
I orea te tuatara ka patu ki waho A problem is solved by continuing to find solutions
Somewhere to live. Someone to love. Something to do. Something to hope for. The Spinoff published an editorial by RACP Aotearoa New Zealand President Dr George Laking, where he explored the four areas needed to be addressed to improve health for New Zealanders. Read the article at the
In September 2020, the RACP launched its advocacy campaign #MakeItTheNorm ahead of the nation’s 2020 election.
#MakeItTheNorm looks beyond the traditional boundaries of our work to the factors that promote good health and wellbeing, to the social, economic and political determinants of health.
The campaign calls for action on four things that can make or break good health and wellbeing. The words of Prime Minister Norman Kirk sum up the RACP’s prescription for change to the social determinants: “People don’t want much – just somewhere to live, someone to love, something to do and something to hope for.”
  1. Somewhere to live: it needs to be the norm for everyone to have access to healthy housing.
  2. Someone to love: it needs to be the norm for all whānau to enjoy wellbeing.
  3. Something to do: it needs to be the norm that everyone has good work.
  4. Something to hope for: there needs to be justice. Everyone has to have a fair go.
In #MakeItTheNorm, the RACP recommends systems-level change for the creation of health in Aotearoa New Zealand. We weave together four social determinants (Healthy Housing, Good Work, Whānau Wellbeing, Health Equity), in the context of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We draw on the evidence base, the experiences and stories of our members, and our values of service to humanity. #MakeItTheNorm recommendations
  1. Make healthy housing the norm because a healthy home is a human right.
  2. Make Good Work the norm because incomes must enable whānau to live with dignity.
  3. Make whānau wellbeing the norm by ensuring our environments support health.
  4. Make health equity the norm to support just and equitable health outcomes.
#MakeItTheNorm is informed by the evidence for action on the social determinants of health, like poor housing, insecure work and low wages, and inequitable health outcomes. The campaign is shaped by the knowledge and experiences of RACP members – medical specialists working in hospitals and communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.
RACP Fellow and paediatrician based in Aotearoa New Zealand, Dr Renee Liang, is a member of the RACP’s Aotearoa New Zealand Policy and Advocacy Committee and was closely involved in conceptualising the #MakeItTheNorm campaign. “As clinicians, all of us are acutely aware of how deep and wide our duty of care stretches. When a family or individual entrusts us with their story, it's our duty and privilege to walk with them and to help them to change their stories for the better. I'm sure we have all felt the frustration when there are some stories that we know words and potions will not fix. Needed are remedies which we, as clinicians, cannot provide: money to alleviate poverty; warm dry homes; appropriate educational supports; jobs that are fairly paid and safe to work in,” says Dr Liang.
“There is a level of rage and perhaps guilt, too: we are usually the beneficiaries of a system which is unfairly rigged and has been for generations. It is therefore important that our College leads on addressing the inequities which lead to an unfair health burden for the most vulnerable parts of our population. The #MakeItTheNorm campaign is a message from us to policy-makers and the general public. It states that the inequities are real, they are impactful, and that there is something we can do. It opens a conversation.
“Just as clinicians use stories to diagnose, stories can also be used to drive change. We have already seen how words coupled with strong images can be used to engage hearts and minds and communicate complex health messages. As members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Policy and Advocacy Committee we were excited to be given the opportunity to collaborate with graphic artists to craft what will hopefully be an ongoing way for our College to lead conversations on health and wellbeing.”
Learn more at If RACP members would like to provide feedback or have further enquiries about the campaign, please get in touch via
© 2021 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians