Anyone willing to be a co-signatory to this letter to the NZMA Journal, please let me know. It has a better chance of publication than the open letter to RCAP previously sent. Keith Henderson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
To the Editor
New Zealand Medical Association Journal
 
Since July 2013 when the government's benefit 'reforms' saw the replacement of sickness and invalid benefits by a single job-seeker support, G.Ps have been signing application forms for work assessment bearing a quotation regarding the health benefits of work from the position statement on that subject from the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM), which is running a campaign on this theme. Those G.Ps who have been inducted by MSD as 'designated doctors are meanwhile being exposed to the scientifically more dubious claim that long term benefit dependency is a cause of ill health. There are several reasons why G.Ps should be skeptical of this attempt to manipulate them into denying beneficiaries something that used to be considered an entitlement. 
Firstly there is clearly an alternative hypothesis to account for the statistics of ill-health amongst beneficiaries, and that ispoverty, the health impacts of which get no mention whatsoever in the AFOEM document (or in the work assessment application form!) Included amongst the statistics adduced by the AFOEM to support its claim that unemployment causes ill-health are statistics of ill-health of children! Of the competing hypotheses, poverty is clearly the one that best accounts for this, and if it wholly accounts for it amongst children, it would be perverse to maintain that it did not do so for adults also.
The same government that has (for reasons entirely different from any supposed health benefits) vowed to reduce benefit numbers by 40,000 has meanwhile denied that child poverty is as deep and widespread as its critics claim. Moreover it has now been revealed that the deputy prime minister has been concealing a major underestimate of the true extent of child poverty. As long as it can claim support from the medical profession by appearing to address the poorly substantiated health effects of benefit dependency, the more likely the government is to continue in its state of denial re any link between poverty and illness. Increases in illness resulting from the higher levels of poverty attendant on the draconian administration of benefits is likely to far outweigh any decreases obtained by the miniscule number of beneficiaries finding healthy employment in an economic recession.
Thirdly, foremost amongst the promoters of the 'health benefits of work' is the holder of an academic chair sponsored by the world's largest disability insurer. Even worse, that insurer is one that has been thoroughly discredited the U.S courts for denying benefits to rightful claimants.
We, the undersigned consider it is time the medical profession objected publicly and loudly to being manipulated by government and the corporate interests it transparently serves.
The allegations made above are substantiated by links in an Open Letter to the Royal College of Physicians published on waitemataunite.blogspot.com. See also http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/