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March 11, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Healthy Fear over Privacy

Confidentiality issues turning students off healthcare

The stoic, “she’ll be right” attitude of New Zealand students to healthcare has been shown with New Zealanders more likely than their international counterparts to avoid treatment due to confidentiality concerns.

The study, in the March issue of the Journal of Primary healthcare, found one in six students had not seen a doctor or nurse during the previous twelve months when they needed to. One third of young people gave privacy concerns as a reason for avoiding healthcare.
Lead researcher Simon Denny, of the Department of Community Paediatrics at the University of Auckland, highlighted international
“This was markedly higher than a similar study utilising data from the US where 11 per cent of boys and 14 per cent of girls reported privacy concerns as a reason for forgone healthcare.” Students reporting confidentiality worries were reported more difficulty
accessing health care for sensitive health issues. These included sexual health, emotional problems, pregnancy-related issues, stopping cigarette smoking, or alcohol or drug use.
Female, Māori and Pasifika students, and those living in areas of high deprivation were the most likely to report not having sought healthcare when it was required. Students with chronic health problems or disabilities, those behaving in ways that posed a risk to their health or those experiencing depression were more likely to report being unable to access health care.
The health Information Privacy Code (hIPC) binds doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers. The Code creates specific rules designed to ensure the protection of an individual’s privacy. “Student health is legally bound to follow the provisions of the Privacy
Act and HIPC. Our compliance with this Act is audited as part of the Cornerstone Quality Accreditation programme, and we take student
privacy very seriously,“ Pam Thorburn, Director of Student Academic services told Salient.
“If a student has any concerns about confidentiality and information access, they are advised to discuss this with their health professional or the Director of the Student health Service. Every student can also raise concerns with the University Privacy Officer, or directly with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.”
The University has had two privacy complaints in the past five years. One was resolved by the involved parties internally, with the other found not to be a breach by the Privacy Commissioner. One user of victoria’s student health clinic expressed surprise at the finding of the study. “If I’m broke, I go get fixed” he said he could see why some people might have concerns, but he was not too worried about privacy issues.
Another student Salient spoke to said she had attended a drop-in clinic in need of a pregnancy test, but when she saw the doctor was her friend’s dad, she did not mention the test during the appointment. The study also found that the most common barrier students had for not accessing health services was ‘not wanting to make a fuss’. Others included the cost, fear, lack of transport, and lack of knowledge of how to access health services.

New Zealanders have an average consultation rate of 4.3 per year, below the OECD median of 6.3 consultations.
Students can access victoria’s student health service at Mauri Ora, Level 1 SUB, on (04) 463 5308 (kelburn), or at Student Services, Level 2, West Wing, Wellington railway Station, or on (04) 463 7474 (Pipitea).


Lydia Nobbs

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