Summer is around the corner, and we at Equally Well are buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. We have had some remarkable accomplishments this year, including the continuous promotion of our Māori Health Strategy – Ngā Waka o Matariki, and the activation of the ‘SEE US’ campaign by the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand.

The Equally Well backbone team has been diligently preparing for the next stage of our joint efforts as we move into 2024.  As always, we encourage you to share the actions on our new website that you or your organisation are taking to promote physical health equity for tāngata whai ora (individuals pursuing wellness) and their whānau.

We are thrilled to share some updates on our recent activities emphasising the reach of the Equally Well collaborative. As in-person conferences resume, there have been numerous opportunities to showcase the work of Equally Well.

Recent activities

GP23 Conference


GP23 conference. Tui Taurua. Simon Kozak, Dr Lizzie Loudon and Dr Fiona Imlach


The GP23 conference took place in Tāmaki Makaurau in July, featuring informative presentations, panel discussions, and practical sessions led by sector experts in primary healthcare.

It was great to see people across the collaborative sharing the work they have been involved in on Equally Well. One of these was a workshop session, with four speakers across the Equally Well collaborative.

During their presentations, they shared compelling evidence, insights from the ‘SEE US’ campaign, which brought attention to diagnostic overshadowing and healthcare biases. Through personal anecdotes and a call for self-reflection, the workshop aimed to foster equity in physical healthcare, with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific peoples.  This included backbone team members Simon Kozak and Tui Taurua, who talked to the ‘SEE US’ campaign and Ngā Waka o Matariki.

Dr Fiona Imlach from the University of Otago presented early findings from the Tupuānuku research.  Dr. Lizzie Loudon from Pegasus Health shared some of the work she has done on Equally Well providing some practical examples of what GPs can do in their practice.

Karōria Johns and Irihāpeti Mahuika from Collaborative Aotearoa shared their framework on Collective Action, and Emma Wood from Te Pou was able to showcase how this has been reflected in the work of the Equally Well collaborative in New Zealand.

It was great to see another session on the programme where the speakers emphasised the significance of influenza and COVID-19 vaccines for tāngata whai ora. The workshop displayed evidence and a practical case study illustrating how Equally Well translated data into actionable strategies to enhance physical health outcomes for people experiencing mental health challenges and addiction issues.


Updates to the Tupuānuku research project

We are excited to see that the Tupuānuku research findings are starting to emerge through publications. This work by Otago University researchers provides a distinctive perspective on New Zealand’s data concerning individuals with mental health and addiction experiences as they seek access to healthcare services. The results of this research will help set the scene for future policy recommendations, workforce development strategies, and resources for health practitioners, policy makers, and people with lived experience.

We would like to thank those Equally Well champions who between February and April 2023 completed the survey that has provided the voices of lived experience in our findings and led to the publication of the results in three key papers so far.

1. Cunningham, R., Imlach, F., Lockett, H., Lacey, C., Haitana, T., Every-Palmer, S., … & Peterson, D. (2023). Do patients with mental health and substance use conditions experience discrimination and diagnostic overshadowing in primary care in Aotearoa New Zealand? Results from a national online survey. Journal of Primary Health Care.

This study investigated experiences of people with mental health and substance use issues who sought help for a physical health condition in primary healthcare services, examining quality of care attributes. The majority of people reported positive experiences of primary care services however, experiences differed by diagnosis, number of diagnoses, and some demographic characteristics.

2. Cunningham, R., Imlach, F., Haitana, T., Every-Palmer, S., Lacey, C., Lockett, H., & Peterson, D. It’s not in my head: A qualitative analysis of experiences of discrimination in people with mental health and substance use conditions seeking physical healthcare.Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14, 1285431.

The aims of this paper were to describe how people with mental health and addiction issues experienced discrimination in physical health services, and to explore the likely underlying beliefs of clinicians that lead to discrimination in physical healthcare.

3. Cunningham R, Imlach F, Every-Palmer S, Haitana T, Peterson D. Dealing With Discrimination in Physical Health Care Services: Strategies of People With Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions. Journal of Patient Experience. 2023;10.

Following on from the previous two papers, this paper used the survey data to identify strategies used by people with mental health and addiction issues to avoid or minimise the impact of discrimination from physical health services. Strategies identified often meant people did not seek help or compromised the quality of their care.


Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Indigenous Conference in Vancouver

Photo: Tui Taurua

One of our members of the backbone team, Tui Taurua, attended the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Conference in Canada in September.

She brought the voice of Equally Well to the forefront. Tui was eager to connect with the indigenous people of Canada and establish lasting relationships. She believed that networking with them would help put the voice of indigenous on the world stage, especially concerning Māori mental health and addiction.


Ngā Waka o Matariki – Mental Health and Health Inequity.
Co-design model workshop

In June, Ngā Waka o Matariki, the Māori health strategy for Equally Well, shone brightly during the workshop held with Waikato Te Whatu Ora Huihuinga, where Tui Taurua delved into the critical issue of the early mortality of tāngata whai ora Māori in comparison to Tauiwi/Pākekā people, attributing these disparities to the enduring impact of colonisation.

Key learnings focused on the Ngā Waka o Matariki strategy, co-design and the importance of face-to-face interactions, the sharing of mātauranga kōrero, and fostering open dialogues to collectively find solutions and work towards health equity.


SEE US Campaign pilot launch

The collaborative launched the “SEE US” activation campaign last year, which focuses on the importance of pharmacists and other primary care providers overcoming diagnostic overshadowing. This occurs when mental health and addiction histories take precedence over physical health needs, leading to a lack of trust and engagement with healthcare professionals, and contributing to inequitable outcomes.
This year, we are going a step further with the support of Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand (PGNZ), who decided to get on board with this initiative with a pilot campaign consisting of both an education module and an in-store initiative that was implemented in Auckland and that will provide valuable insights and serve as a foundation for scaling the initiative nationwide.

We extend an invitation to explore our toolkit and engage with us to discover innovative ways to implement the SEE US campaign.


Our Focus for 2024 

Photo: Sylvia Cheuy

In August, we were delighted to share thoughts about our Equally Well space with Sylvia Cheuy, one of the consulting directors of the Tamarack Institute’s Collective Impact. Syliva was visiting New Zealand to be a keynote speaker at the Collaborative Aotearoa conference. Her expertise and guidance helped us to consider what some of our priorities for Equally Well need to be.

Some of the critical shifts that will significantly drive Equally Well’s mission and purpose in the coming years are:

  • Generate a new strategy around a new call to action for Equally Well based on most recent research that will resonate with the collaborative and the purpose of Equally Well.
  • Elevate our commitment to Māori tāngata whai ora by embracing Māori worldviews and practices, honouring their unique perspectives.
  • Continue our mission to raise awareness of healthcare disparities among those with mental health and addiction issues and find new ways to address stigma, discrimination, and unconscious bias.


Collaborative Aotearoa Conference 2023

The Collaborative Aotearoa Conference 2023. Abigail Freeland, Dr Helen Lockett and Tui Taurua.

The Collaborative Aotearoa Conference 2023 was a great event that focused on collective action with communities for health equity in Aotearoa. The Equally Well backbone team had an opportunity to present with Amarjit Maxwell and Irihāpeti Mahuika from Collaborative Aotearoa, on the effectiveness and strengths of Equally Well as an example of taking collective action. The conference provided an opportunity to learn and connect with like-minded people who were committed to driving positive change for health equity in Aotearoa.


Upcoming meet-ups – SAVE THE DATE

You are invited to our upcoming Equally Well champions virtual lunchtime meet-up, scheduled for Wednesday, 14th of February, from 11 am to 12 pm. We will discuss the Ngā Waka o Matariki (NWoM) Equally Well Māori Health Strategy. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn, connect, and share insights with others in our collaborative.

We highly appreciate your active participation and contributions towards making our Equally Well initiative thrive. Thank you for your support.

Register here


In loving memory of Linda Smith 

It is with immense sadness that we share the news of the passing of Linda Smith.

Linda was an unwavering Equally Well champion, working tirelessly to uphold the rights of people with lived experience and ensure an ongoing focus on addressing and supporting mental and physical health.

On behalf of the Equally Well community, we extend our deepest condolences to Linda’s family, friends, and work colleagues in Te Waipounamu / Waitaha Canterbury.

Linda influenced the form and shape of the Equally Well collaborative from its inception.

Her commitment to working together to achieve physical health equity was demonstrated time and time again, even travelling, with oxygen assistance, on the plane to Wellington to make sure she could be at the launch in 2014.

One of many of Linda’s lasting legacies was working with Te Pou and the Equally Well backbone team to review the evidence and put forward the case for people with lived experience to be included in the priority group for COVID-19 vaccination and for funded influenza vaccinations – something Linda had been advocating for, for more than 10 years.

She will be very much missed.

Linda’s memorial service was held on 30th October, and colleagues from Canterbury specialist mental health services were able to acknowledge Linda’s huge contribution, both in Canterbury and across New Zealand.

In the words of Sandy Clemett, Director of Allied Health specialist mental health services, Linda’s colleague, and line manager, who spoke at Linda’s celebration of life:

“Linda retired in November 2021 – and before she left, she gave us a precious gift - a video of her lived experience of her mental and physical health journey.  She provided her story to enlighten and teach current and future health professionals   – giving them insight into how they communicate and care for people, what you say and what you do can change the lives and futures of people.  Linda was a taonga and along with my colleagues I feel privileged and honoured to have known Linda and worked with her.

Kia hora te marino, kia whakapapa pounamu te moana, kia tere te kārohirohi I mua i tō huarahi  

“May peace be widespread, may the sea glisten like greenstone and may the shimmer of light guide you on your way”.

Linda SMITH Obituary (2023) – The Press (


Smoke-free legislation announcement

A number of Equally Well champions are thinking through the possible implications of the repeal of the smoke-free legislation on the physical health of tāngata whaiora. If this is something you or your organisation wish to collaborate on, perhaps with the aim of developing a shared Equally Well position statement, or similar, email us at We will look to bring champions together.