Health and wellbeing is as important for disabled people as it is for all citizens of New Zealand. Disabled people are not sick but they may have greater healthcare needs. While the goal is to keep as healthy as possible everyone should be able to easily access the health services they need, when they need them.

For localised information please contact your nearest Disability Information Centre.

Jump to Sections

Health System Access

Back to Top

When it comes to the provision of health services for disabled people, the health system is changing to enable improved access, consistency, and service relevance while empowering disabled people and whānau to better manage their own health and wellbeing. The shift to a single nationwide health system managed by Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand , in partnership with the Te Aka Whai Ora - Māori Health Authority and delivered locally will improve the quality and consistency of care for disabled people.

A national coordinated network of healthcare professionals and providers will help ensure best practice care is available to all disabled communities, and that care does not vary depending on where you live.

The NZ Disability Strategy remains a cornerstone of our health system, and will direct the Manatū Hauora (Ministry of Health), Te Aka Whai Ora - Māori Health Authority and Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand in delivering improved health outcomes for disabled people.


As well as the Health and Disability Code of Consumer Rights we are also protected by the Health Information Privacy Code 2020 when using health and disability services.

The Code regulates how health agencies (such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, health insurers, hospitals, Primary Health Organisations, ACC and the Ministry of Health) collect, hold, use and disclose health information about identifiable individuals.

The two key concepts of the Code are:

Purpose: Agencies must know why they are collecting health information and collect only the information they need. Once health information has been collected from a patient for a particular purpose, it can be used or disclosed for that purpose without additional consent.

Openness: Agencies need to let patients know how their information is going to be used and disclosed so the patients can make decisions about whether to provide it.

The Code recognises that people expect their health information:

  • to be kept confidential, because it was probably collected in a situation of confidence and trust
  • to be treated as sensitive, because it may include details about body, lifestyle, emotions and behaviour
  • may have ongoing use if a piece of medical information becomes clinically relevant even a long time after it was initially collected
  • will be used for the purposes for which it was originally collected, and they will be told about those purposes.


The best person to advocate for you is yourself. Many people feel confident in doing this having learned about their rights and responsibilities. Some people prefer to have a family member, close friend, or other support person with them when they have concerns about the services they receive. There are also advocacy services people can use if they wish.

The National Health and Disability Advocacy Service can help you with your concerns about a provider or service.

It is a free service, and advocates are independent of all health and disability service providers and agencies. Advocates can:

  • Help you understand your rights when using health or disability services
  • Listen to your concerns
  • Talk through your options
  • Help you to formulate your complaint and make a complaint
  • Support you while you resolve your issue

You can talk to someone on:

Freephone 0800 555 050

Email or live chat on the Advocacy Service website.

Care Matters have good information on advocacy and supported decision making.

Some organisations such as People First NZ and IHC can help with advocacy. There are also independent advocates in some places. Contact the Disability Information Centre in your area for local options.


Everyone has the right to ask for information when using health and disability services. This can range from asking your doctor to explain why they want you to take a certain medication, to requesting a copy of your vaccination records.

Make the most of your appointments.

Many GP, nurse or other healthcare appointments are only 15 minutes long and it’s easy to leave feeling you didn’t get all the answers you wanted. So how do you make the most of the time you have? Here are some tips.

  • Write down your symptoms to tell your healthcare provider.
  • Make a list of anything else that is troubling you.
  • Write down any questions you want to ask.
  • Bring a friend/family member to support you.
  • Ask for a recap at the end of your appointment. It is okay to ask them to write things down.
  • Be honest. Even if you feel embarrassed it can be harmful not to tell your doctor everything.

Many doctors now use patient portals such as Manage My Health to record patient notes. The patient themselves can access the portal and read the information there. Information includes appointment notes, medications prescribed, all health records including vaccinations. You can also make appointments and order repeat prescriptions through the portal.

For more information on making the most of healthcare appointments you can go to Health Navigator

Keeping Healthy

Back to Top

Staying as healthy as we can will give us a better quality of life and we will be able to do more of the things we enjoy. Many things contribute to healthy living including what we eat and drink, how we exercise, our sleep habits and how we manage stress in our lives.

Healthy eating

Healthy eating is not about sticking to strict diets or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about eating a balanced range of foods that help you feel great, have more energy, improve your outlook, and help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. By eating a wide range of foods, we can get all the energy, vitamins and minerals we need to live well, have more energy and maintain a healthy weight. To stay healthy as you grow and age, it’s important to eat well.  

What we eat and drink has a big impact on our general health and wellbeing, our immune system and our risk of getting major diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Choose a variety of healthy foods every day from the following 4 food groups:

  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Breads and cereals
  • Milk and milk products
  • Lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Health Navigator has lots of useful information about healthy eating.

Eating difficulties

Some people have difficulty swallowing and need guidance from a professional. Speech Language Therapists can assess and give advice and/or therapy that can help. You can find information about what they do and the other supports available through the Speech Language Therapy Association site

Physical activity

Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do for your health – no matter how old you are. No matter your level of ability, there are many options for you to keep yourself moving as much as you can.

Sport Wellington has lots of ideas on how to stay healthy and keep moving at home. 

Free Tai Chi lessons from Dr Paul Lam

Ivana Exercise are YouTube videos for people with physical and intellectual disabilities 


Exercises after a stroke can be useful for people who have experienced stroke



You don’t need to have a video or class to dance along to, just put on your favourite song and let loose!!

Free online dance therapy for adults with special needs and disabilities (and their carers) from Dance and Arts Therapy NZ.


Other activities

There are many activities you can participate in both at home and in your community. Some of these include yoga, gardening, karaoke, arts and crafts, puzzles and games etc. Your local Disability Information Centre can help you find what is available locally.

Mental health

Staying mentally healthy is also vital to having a good life. With so many challenges many disabled people find it hard to feel positive and mentally well.

There is an excellent article about this on The Low Down site

Having the support of family and friends is very important. People who you can talk toif you are feeling down about things. There are also organisations that offer support such as Lifeline 0508 828865 or Youthline  

For other local options contact your local Disability Information Centre.


Back to Top

You can find everything you need to know about Covid-19 support and assistance for disabled people on the Unite against Covid site.

Contact the Disability Information Centre in your area for information on local options for assistance if you get Covid-19.