An architectural perspective

An architectural perspective add

Lance O'Sullivan is an inspirational New Zealander, a GP and a father of seven. He is also the 2014 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year. Passionate about bringing awareness to the importance of equal access to healthcare for all members of the community, this week in Defign we spoke to Lance about why he says well designed homes can be just as important to improving the health of all New Zealanders.

A GP in the small town of Kaitaia, Lance has made it his mission to bring attention to the disparities in the New Zealand health system which enable those with lesser means less access to health services - in particular children living in poverty. Actively working to reduce the gap, not only in his practice but in his community, Lance was responsible for establishing MOKO (Manawa Ora, Korokoro Ora, "Healthy Heart, Healthy Throat") and V-MOKO, a school based and online service focused on preventing rheumatic fever among primary and intermediate students in and around Kaitaia.

"New Zealand's health care system is great but unfortunately not everyone has the same level of access to it, says Lance. "Those less fortunate have to pay the same fees to access health care as everyone else, no matter what their income. In Kaitaia where my practice is based, it is a high needs, impoverished community. As a practitioner I am able to make my own rules and have found ways to make access to health care for those disadvantaged more accessible. My philosophy is that if we do something now by targeting those with greater needs we can help lessen the burden they will have on the healthcare system in the future."

Not only a strong advocate for improving the access to care for those less fortunate, Lance is also dedicated to highlighting the connection between better health and higher quality homes.

"Poorly designed homes and the use of poorly made materials contribute greatly to poor health", says Lance.

"If homes were designed and built with better health in mind, it could have a significant impact on the cost to the health system while also making my job as a GP a lot easier. People should be able to go to a warm, dry home which promotes healthy living. In my role I can do everything for a family, but if they have to live in a home which supports bad health there is only so much I can do. Unfortunately New Zealand is still in a hangover from the homes built 20-40 years ago which promote bad health and this is having a major impact. Designers need to understand that what they are building today not only contributes to the good health of those living in the present but also to those who will reside in those homes in 10 or 20 years' time."

In his own community Lance has established Kainga Ora ("Well Home"), a home improvement project tackling one family home at a time. The initiative is working hard to fix run down homes with the aim of ensuring every child lives in a healthy environment.

Lance, who will be speaking at the ADNZ National Conference in the Bay of Islands from 24-27 September, hopes his seminar will help to motivate attendees to get out of their comfort zone while also encouraging further conversation and debate around how homes can be designed for good health.

"I think there are some real similarities between my role as a GP and the role of an architectural designer. In both professions there is a real responsibility to make the right decisions, with these decisions having an effect on the outcome of people's lives. Together we are building a nation and a country. Architectural designers are contributing hugely to the physical environment and it is so important that they get it right," says Lance.

For more information on the ADNZ National Conference follow this link