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The Cromwell Experiment

by | Sep 22, 2021 | Health System, The Cromwell Experiment

Together we can design a whole person health programme to benefit all New Zealanders

An open letter to the people of Cromwell from Dr. David Beaumont

Dear people of Cromwell,

We are calling on the whole community to get involved in testing the above hypothesis. This project aims to engage with the community and its medical services to collaborate in the rollout of a whole person health programme.

As well as promoting health in individuals, we hope to address the growing problem of doctor burnout, and recruitment and retention of doctors in rural communities.

In Cromwell, we have a discrete, engaged community of a size that is ideal to test the concept of a new model of health for the whole of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over 40 years working in the health system — first in General Practice, then as a Consultant Occupational Physician — I have assessed and advised thousands of people who have been ‘let down’ by healthcare systems. From my own experience of ill health — including a heart attack, hip replacements and depression — I realised that there needs to be a shift in emphasis to preventative health. I focused on seeing people in the context of their whole lives and have spent many years developing a programme to empower people to take control of their own health.

I believe the current health system is broken. It is not fit for purpose. Not only is the health system failing patients, but doctors are becoming increasingly burnt out. A 2016 survey of senior New Zealand doctors found that nearly 50 percent were suffering one or more of the three symptoms of burnout: emotional exhaustion, cynicism or compassion fatigue, and doubt that one is making a difference. This finding can be seen around the world.

The current model of health is based on the understanding that health is the absence of disease, this is no longer adequate for the changing world and does not serve the people, their whanau, or communities. Instead, this programme is based on more forward-thinking and whole person definitions, especially, “health is the ability to control our lives”. This is captured in the concept of the Māori phrase Tino Rangatiratanga.

Based on the Māori Model of Health, Te Whare Tapa Whā, the programme will help you develop your own plan for life, health and happiness within the four pillars of health: physical health, psychological health, whanau/family health and spiritual health, in a way that is accessible to everyone.

The intention is to change the social contract between doctors and patients – from the misconception that “Doctors fix patients” to a relationship where doctors partner with people to take control of their life and become experts in their own health.

The hope for the Cromwell Experiment is ultimately to enable a significant proportion of Cromwell to go through the programme and to improve the health and wellbeing of the community.

So what can you do?

I invite you to participate in our programme starting this summer. We are putting into practice the theories from my book, Positive Medicine, which outline the concepts and the logical reasoning for why a radical shift in healthcare delivery is needed. We will test these theories in this experiment.

We acknowledge our founding sponsor, Fulton Hogan. Having developed a successful programme for Fulton Hogan workers, they asked me to develop a similar programme for our community

This is an empowerment model which gives people the tools and framework to become the experts in their own health, and to see how all aspects of their life are interlinked.

The programme consists of 2 group sessions (1.5 hours each). Participants are given a workbook and the tools needed to develop their own Life and Health Plan. There will also be online support with a private Facebook group participants can join.

What is the catch?

That you have to take responsibility for creating your own life and health plan and follow it, but the rewards and benefits are immeasurable and will flow out into your relationships, your work and your entire lives.

I encourage you to work with your Doctor on this and I hope you will help us in rolling out an example of how the healthcare system could look like. I know that you will enjoy the benefits.

Participation is free

The first stage will be a pilot group who will be volunteers from the launch event. More information will subsequently be provided. Read more at

It’s time for us to acknowledge that our health is our responsibility.

Yours Sincerely,
Dr. David Beaumont

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