Who we are

The Public Health Association is an incorporated society and a registered charity. Membership is open to anyone who supports our aims and values.

Read about our aims and values.

What is public health?

Public health is usually defined as "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organized efforts and informed choices of society”. 

A public health approach focuses on people as members of a community, ethnic group or a whole population, rather than as individuals. Our focus is on promoting good health so, as a nation, we don’t need to spend so much of our resources treating preventable illness.

Read more about public health.

Why does the Public Health Association matter?

The PHA matters because the health of the public matters. Health conditions in New Zealand are constantly changing - not always for the better.

  • Inequality and poverty are bad for health, especially for children living in cold, damp houses that enable the spread of infectious diseases, poor diet, obesity and mental illness
  • More people are living longer with chronic conditions (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes)
  • Infectious diseases are re-emerging, such as rheumatic fever, meningitis and tuberculosis, especially among children
  • Climate change affects many of the basic necessities for a healthy lifestyle, such as clean air, clean water and effective waste management systems

What does the PHA do about this?

Because we focus on prevention not treatment, we take an ‘upstream’ or ‘fence at the top of the cliff’ approach. Good science and community action have solutions for many of these impacts on health. Our job is to:

  • keep people – including workers in the public health sector as well as the general public – informed about evidence of what works
  • identify barriers to good health and persuade decision-makers where change is needed to promote health
  • support different communities developing their own solutions
  • oppose poor planning and policies that degrade our natural environments and our towns and cities.

Wicked problems

Many of the problems that affect our health do not have simple solutions. They are caused by many different things in an environment that is constantly changing. Many of the people affected by these problems have little or no power to change their situation.

There are no silver bullets, so because of these complexities they are referred to as ‘wicked problems”. This means we have to be smart, adaptable, respectful of difference and always open to learning. Most of all, we don’t need heroes, so much as collaboration and mutual support.

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The PHA – a strong and informed collective voice for a healthy and well New Zealand.

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