Of course our cover story in this jubilee issue is about Covid-19. It had to be! There is no other issue of the day with such magnitude. (Yes, October’s cannabis control referendum is a massive event for the country, for drug policy progress and for the Drug Foundation, but as we head once again into tighter levels of lockdown at the time of writing this, it’s Covid-19 dominating our attention.)
New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 challenge has been lauded globally, and quite rightly too. We have been collectively so thankful for the stunning political and public health leadership shown by Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield. We each deserve a high five (conducted with an appropriate degree of distancing) as members of the Team of 5 Million.
The importance of a robust public health system has been demonstrated, and previous underinvestment in public health over a long period has exposed a legacy of bad political decision making. The opportunity we now have to embed equity-focused population health approaches must not be missed. This includes a resolute commitment to tackle the social and economic determinants of health. This must be a top priority of the new government formed after the General Election.
Our cover story is about the many ways the addiction treatment sector stepped up to the challenge of Covid-19. We always knew we had it in us, but it took this crisis to force our services to respond. We found new ways to engage people who use our services, and we created new avenues to reach a broader range of people who might need some help. The sector must be very deliberate to maintain and expand these new innovations. I know our sector colleagues are up for it, and they deserve our thanks for their responsiveness.
Our friends in the back offices of the Ministry of Health also deserve thanks and recognition for their massive efforts to support the sector’s response. This included securing funding for new approaches and for giving certainty for services in these very uncertain times, not to mention doing all this while juggling their own family situations. The new government must create a moment when these overworked, anxious and stressed public sector workers can rejuvenate.
My biggest heroes during this time have been the team here at the Drug Foundation. The minute Jacinda Ardern outlined the new lockdown levels, people here asked, “What will this mean for people’s alcohol and drug use, what help might they need and how can we provide that?” Within days, they had created new advice and resources about managing withdrawal, helping family members and more, and within two weeks, we launched our Best Bubble mass media health promotion campaign (see page 36).
(We also created and launched our cannabis referendum campaign during this period, but someone will write that book another day.)
My staff are kind and compassionate people, with hearts to help others. I am immensely proud of what they achieved, and I cannot express enough my thanks for their support and everything they did during this hard, stressful and uncertain time.
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