08 December 2009

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) today awarded Dr Mark Jacobs the Chair’s Award – the NZMA’s highest standing award – as the clinician at the forefront of the national response to H1N1 influenza pandemic this year.

The NZMA Chair’s Award goes to an individual or organisation that has made a substantial contribution to the health of New Zealanders, either throughout the current year or over a given period of time.

NZMA Chair Dr Peter Foley says that Dr Mark Jacobs, the Ministry of Health’s Director of Public Health, and his team which included Deputy Directors Dr Fran McGrath and Dr Darren Hunt, showed exceptional leadership in a very pressured environment.

“The effective national response of the team can be largely attributed to pre-planning, along with the impressive collaboration and cooperation that took place on a national scale. The pandemic clearly showed us what we can achieve, and how effective we can be, when we work together.”

Dr Foley said the Ministry of Health team excelled in the role they played to build and maintain public confidence.
“From the outset the team communicated to the media and the public with openness and transparency. The public were kept well informed and were advised to be cautious and concerned, but not alarmed. The team succeeded in striking the right balance, maintaining public attention and concern which was appropriate to the threat and level of risk.”

“New Zealand responded early and is regarded as having done very well in managing all the challenges this brought to our health system.”

Dr Foley said that the Award was also an opportunity to acknowledge the value of a strong relationship between public health and primary care and the involvement of the hospital sector.

“The challenge for our health sector now is to apply the collaboration and cooperation we did so well during the pandemic to address even bigger health threats for New Zealanders such as heart disease, diabetes, smoking and alcohol.”

Dr Mark Jacobs was presented with the Chair’s Award at the NZMA’s annual awards event in Wellington