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The New Zealand Medical Journal

 Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 21-January-2011, Vol 124 No 1328

Response from New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy Head
Dear Editor
Your publication recently featured an article by Professor John Langley, from the Injury Prevention Research Unit at the University of Otago entitled The New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy; significant shortcomings after 5 years.
By way of background, the NZ Injury Prevention Strategy (NZIPS) was established in 2003, essentially to ensure that across the whole of government there was appropriate targeting and prioritisation of injury prevention resources and to maximise cooperation between agencies, both government and non-government. Of course the ultimate goal was to achieve further reductions in injury rates.
In 2008 an evaluation was done of the progress made by NZIPS, which found that although there were areas for improvement that the strategy was sound.
Professor Langley’s article made a number of points that were critical of NZIPS, and the evaluation of it, but in my view his article could lead to an unnecessarily gloomy picture of injury prevention overall in New Zealand.
For example, the fact that over the period of the evaluation, good progress had been made in reducing fatal road and workplace accidents merited no more than a single sentence in his article. Of course this is not all due to NZIPS, far from it, but it is an important point and we should be encouraged by it. Good progress has been made in other areas as well.
Likewise, the simple fact that we actually have a whole of government approach to injury prevention puts us ahead of almost every other country in the world. Yes, there is more that can, and will, be done but NZIPS is a great platform to do that work from.
Equally importantly, Professor Langley’s article did not take into account the Government’s response to the evaluation of NZIPS, i.e. what’s being done about the issues that have been raised. Some of the things that have already been agreed include:
  • Initiatives to strengthen NZIPS focus and improve accountability and collaboration among the lead agencies. This will also foster increased engagement.
  • A new governance structure. All the lead agencies have approved the new structure and are committed to the Strategy.
  • A new outcome monitoring framework is under development. This should help ensure that initiatives remain focused on key populations and serious injury areas. It will also help align the Strategy with lead agency’s policy documents and progress measures.
  • The inclusion of four new areas for special attention by NZIPS. Professor Langley suggests it is unlikely that work will proceed on these areas but actually ACC has already picked up the lead roles for the alcohol and child areas (at this stage) and work is beginning.
The fact is that the Government has renewed its commitment to achieving a reduction in the injury toll and is determined to get results. More of the recommendations in the evaluation of NZIPS, which were fully endorsed by Cabinet, will be implemented over time. Over the next 12 months, the NZIPS Secretariat’s focus will be on measurable results, clear accountability and active collaboration.
Of course there are challenges for the injury prevention sector in driving down injury rates, not the least of which is that these things involve changing human behaviour, which simply takes time. That’s always been the case. Many of these challenges are touched on in Professor Langley’s article and while I welcome any discussion of the issues, I found the article to be overly pessimistic.
Progress has been made; areas for improvement have been identified and are being worked on. Certainly more could be done but like everything else in life we need to focus on the most important areas first, and we think we are.
And of course, NZIPS is not the “be all and end all” of injury prevention in New Zealand. There are lots of organisations and individuals doing great work in a range of areas, including Professor Langley and the Injury Prevention Research Unit at Otago University.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about NZIPS for themselves can visit
Jennifer Brown
Head of NZ Injury Prevention Strategy
ACC, Auckland
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