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Individualism and the public good: a case study in childhood immunisation

The election of the Fourth Labour Government in July 1984 marked a turning point in New Zealand’s political economic history, ushering in the rise of the individualism which was fundamental to the prevailing philosophy of neo-liberal rationalism. In addition, however, to the widely recognised individualism in the political economy there was also a rising attitude of individualism within New Zealand's civil society. This thesis examines the development of New Zealand’s childhood immunisation policy, the National Immunisation Strategy, as a case study in determining the impact both neo-liberal and civil individualism had on the development of a policy with implications for the public good. The thesis describes the public policy environment m which the National Immunisation Strategy was developed, examining the changes individualism wrought in both New Zealand’s political economy and in civil society. It traces the impact this had in turn on health sector reform, and later on the development of National Immunisation Strategy. The research uses qualitative methods in the examination of the policy-making process. It examines the literature surrounding childhood immunisation policy in New Zealand, key documents related to the policy-making process and findings of interviews with key informants involved in the policy-making process variously as officials, expert participants, and interested observers. The thesis concludes that both neo-liberal and civil individualism had a role in shaping not just the National Immunisation Strategy, but also the environment in which it was implemented. Furthermore, the failure of the strategy to improve childhood immunisation coverage rates and prevent epidemics of vaccine preventable diseases can be linked to the impact individualism had on both the policy development process and the National Immunisation Strategy.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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