Kiwi workers and their families are set to benefit from a world first healthcare initiative which will see them provided with free access to up to forty preventative health services.
Under the multi-million dollar scheme, employees and their family members from one of the country’s largest pharma companies will be screened, immunised and treated for a range of conditions not currently funded by New Zealand’s public health services or insurers.
Dr Ian Griffiths medical director of GSK, which is offering the package to its entire workforce, says the comprehensive programme will cover common diseases and medical conditions that kill thousands of Kiwis annually including; cardiovascular disease, skin, colorectal and cervical cancers, diabetes and communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
He says all Kiwi staff at the pharma company and their families will have access to the preventive healthcare and treatment package, regardless of their location, job role, or pay grade.
Dr Griffiths says preventive healthcare measures are critical at any stage of life, taking many forms – from screenings which expose illness in its early stages, to vaccinations that can stop diseases from developing at all.
He says the range of diagnostic and treatment services provided to their Kiwi employees have been chosen because early stage intervention can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes.
The services include a range of adult and child vaccines for preventable illnesses such as hepatitis and tuberculosis, prenatal healthcare, and smoking cessation treatment.
“A global rise in chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, is making preventive measures an increasingly important healthcare concern for Kiwis.
“Early intervention is now recognised as an essential part of increasing the likelihood of successful treatment outcomes for those in the programme.
“I think the biggest win for New Zealand in this global programme is the routine adult preventative health screening which will pick up early signs of cardiovascular disease and skin cancer. On a purely financial basis alone, these are the two most expensive areas for Kiwis to screen and treat,” he says.
Dr Griffiths says the company will provide testing for heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, and will also offer a thorough adult preventative examination including screening for all of these conditions, which are not currently insured by health companies.
“By world standards, New Zealand has a very comprehensive public healthcare system - particularly for children. What we want to do is provide an additional layer of services which focuses on picking up conditions in families before they become to difficult to treat effectively.”
He says expectant parents will also be better off under the scheme with free prenatal scans offered by the company, along with payments for additional screening to pick up genetic disorders and fetal ultrasounds.
Dr Griffiths says GSK will be the first multi-national employer to create and implement a comprehensive preventive healthcare programme across all its locations.
“In addition to the humanitarian rationale for the programme, there are benefits for attracting and retaining staff.
“We also know that if we can help reduce the worry that comes with having a sick family member at home, it will reduce the burden of preventable illness for our colleagues,” says Dr Griffiths.
“The initiative will complement an existing employee assistance programme we offer which covers everything from counselling for mental health, parenting and legal advice as well as access to a full-time dietician for support on nutritional issues,” he says.