The Health of the People

The Health of the People

‘My hope and expectation that the Havelock North Drinking Water Inquiry would waken us from our national slumber has not been realised.’

In August 2016, 40 per cent of the residents of Havelock North were struck down by a serious bacterial infection. Eminent medical researcher David Skegg argues that the outbreak highlights weaknesses in our country’s health infrastructure – weaknesses already evident in problems ranging from child nutrition to cancer. New Zealand, Skegg explains, must invest more in public health and find the political will needed to oppose the forces that damage health. Personal health care is important, but we neglect public health at our peril.

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Print publication:
Ebook publication: May 2019
Pages: 144
RRP: $14.99
ISBN: 9781988545585
DOI: 10.7810/9781988545585

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'NZ 35th in pandemic preparedness', Elspeth McLean, Otago Daily Times, 16 February 2020.

'The Health of the People', Brian Easton, Pundit, 1 January 2020.

'Epidemics expose public health failures', Charlotte Paul, Newsroom, 18 December 2019.

'Professor David Skegg takes on our health system', Standing Room only, Radio New Zealand, 15 December 2019 (audio, 31'27'').

'Up to no good', Bruce Munro, Otago Daily Times, 19 August 2019.

'Public vs private health interests', Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, 25(3) p.41, April 2019.

'Urgency Called on Water Reform', Water Journal, Issue 209 pp.32-33, May/June 2019.

'Public health priorities?', Barbara Brookes, Corpus NZ, 6 May 2019.

'Health crisis - What will it take to break through?', Boyd Swinburn, NZ Herald, 3 May 2019.

'NZ’s deadly public health battle', Newsroom, 16 April 2019.

'Public health body’s shameful demise', New Zealand Doctor, 4 April 2019.

'Another e-coli outbreak', The Panel, Radio New Zealand, 10 April 2019 (audio, 9'11'').

'NZ moving 'fatally slow' to combat bowel cancer - Sir David Skegg', Newshub Nation, 30 March 2019.

'Time to re-examine Ministry of Health’s function', Otago Daily Times, 27 March 2019.

'Skegg contributes to discussion on NZ's lack of asbestos management plans', Stuff, 17 March 2019.

'Book reveals tobacco industry leagued with boozemakers to kill New Zealand's Public Health Commission', Stuff, 17 March 2019.

'Sir David Skegg: national leadership on public health needed', Radio New Zealand, 6 March 2019.

'Poor leadership to blame for declining public health', Radio New Zealand, 5 March 2019.


'What are the fundamental ingredients of public health success? There is no shortage, one might think, of experience to draw on, given the great variety of public health systems around the world. However, I know of few scholarly accounts of what works well and what does not. The Health of the People is a book that helps to fill the gap. It is a concise and passionately argued account of the rise and fall of the New Zealand Public Health Commission (PHC) written by the man who was chair of the board of the commission, Professor Sir David Skegg.'
– Alistair Woodward, PhD, MB, American Journal of Public Health, Vol 110, No.6, June 2020.

'Professor Sir David Skegg provides the devastatingly clear view of the past that only an educated participant in its history can provide, and he doesn’t hold back in his criticism ... Skegg explains what public health does and why it is important, then goes on to look at various issues in an interesting and hard-hitting manner.'
– Professor Frank Frizelle, New Zealand Medical Journal, 132: 1506, 29 November 2019.