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Official Guide to the Government Court: N.Z. Centennial Exhibition

Health Department

Health Department

"Health is one of the greatest blessings which any individual can enjoy. There was a time when questions affecting the health and physical comfort of the people were received in the legislative halls with covert sneers and careless indifference, but that time has happily passed away. Public health ... is becoming more and more the pressing question of the day."

The Colonial Secretary, the Hon. William Gisborne, spoke these words when, in 1872, he introduced the Bill setting forth the first Public Health Act of New Zealand. Since that time the public health organisation of the country has steadily widened in scope as increasing scientific knowledge has indicated methods whereby life could be lengthened and made happier and more effective.

The Health Department to-day concerns itself with all aspects of preventive and curative medicine. At headquarters the Department is organised into several divisions, namely: Public Hygiene, School Hygiene, Dental Hygiene, Hospitals, Nursing and Maternal Welfare. For the purposes of local administration the Dominion is divided into health districts, each under the charge of a Medical Officer of Health with a field staff of medical officers, inspectors and nurses.

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Through these combined forces the health of the people is safeguarded. Supervision is exercised over water and food supplies, sanitary conditions, and infectious diseases. Positive health teaching is given on important matters, such as correct diet. The welfare of the mother and child receives prominence in the Department's work. By regular medical inspection of school children, by dental care and education, by the distribution of free milk, by the establishment of health camps, and by numerous other activities there is being exerted a beneficial influence on the physical and mental vitality of the young.

The Department pays special attention to the well-being and health of the Maori race, and for this purpose employs a large staff of district nurses in Maori districts.

In addition to the foregoing, the Department administers legislation relative to the training, registration and control of various professional groups, including medical practitioners, dentists, nurses and midwives, masseurs and opticians. It also interests itself in and renders assistance to many activities allied to its own, such as medical research.

Through its Hospitals Division, the Department exercises an oversight of the public hospitals of the Dominion and of the administration of Hospital Boards.

Thus it will be seen that the Department is constantly furnishing the public with scientific knowledge on a host of subjects bearing on individual and communal health. The Department's display in the Government Court is designed to interest, educate and stimulate to further study those who find a key to happiness and prosperity in the promotion of health and disease-prevention.