With this year's election taking place against the backdrop of Covid-19 - one of the biggest health issues in recent times - Ethan Griffiths asks local election candidates what matters to them when it comes to health policy.
For practically every party, health is an area that is a significant part of this election's policy platform.
But people like Age Concern Whanganui manager Michelle Malcolm believe the system is too focused on particular issues, rather than wider health concerns.
"Ideally from the perspective of an older person, health needs to be more proactive than reactive," she said.
"The hospital needs to be the last point of call. A lot of people go into hospital as a social admission, not so much a health admission. Health needs to be given a holistic view where all wider issues are looked at, not just the one particular health concern.
"Whoever the Government is, they need to know that as well as putting government into hospitals, we also need money pumped into the community.
"We need to be much more proactive with how we approach health."
National candidate for Whanganui Harete Hipango said a more detailed strategy for Māori health was required.
"Whanganui has disproportionate Māori health representations for the size of our population," she said.
"Should National get into government we'll be requiring the DHB to annually construct and report against a Māori health strategy, which is specific to the region, not just the national health strategy.
"All DHBs have at the moment is a national health strategy that doesn't drill down into respective communities."
Labour candidate for Te Tai Hauāuru, Adrian Rurawhe, said there needed to be much more targeted investment for Māori.
"In terms of Māori health, in Budget 2019 we put a significant amount of money into mental health, and that's really ramping up now. We knew from the beginning that it was going to be a five-year programme to roll everything out, and as part of that we've called on kaupapa Māori organisations to apply for a share of our $2 billion mental health package.
"It's a really big issue across the whole country but especially in Māori communities. We've got a lot of issues around addiction and there's always underlying issues. It goes hand in hand with poverty, unemployment and those sorts of things."
Steph Lewis, Labour candidate for Whanganui, said attracting medical professionals to Whanganui was a priority for her.
"I'd like to work really hard with the Government to make sure we are putting in place a plan to attract and retain health professionals to the region," she said.
"It's a pretty big ask to run a provincial or rural medical practice, because not only are you the GP, you're the office manager and administrator and you've got all those other hats you've got to try and juggle as well."
Rangitīkei's National candidate Ian McKelvie agreed.
"The National Party will be strengthening rural health via much more mobile health provision into rural areas. That's an opportunity I think we've seen wanting support for a while, and we probably should have acted on in the last term of government," he said.
"The other thing we're very keen on is the mobile surgical bus, which does a great job in rural areas as well, so we'll be ensuring that's strengthened and continued with."
Green Party candidate for Whanganui Alan Clay said his party had been a strong and stable voice in government throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We've been very successful with our health achievements in government over the last wee while. We got funding for maternity needs recently, and that's focused on rural areas, which has been a big issue locally."
Jonathan Marshall, Whanganui candidate for the New Conservative Party, said the Covid-19 elimination and global isolation strategy was not feasible in the future.
"We will always be exposed to the virus. If we don't deal with it soon, we'll have to deal with it later."
Local candidates are also concerned about other failings within our health system.
Another partner in government has been New Zealand First.
While its Rangitīkei candidate and health professional Antony Woollams said the Government had made significant progress, there was more to be done, particularly within New Zealand's DHB system.
"Population-based funding for district health boards needs to be moved to a needs-based model. We're more interested in the money following the patient or the person requiring funding for their health, instead of basing the system on a population model," he said.
"The problem is, if you get a population like a regional area here, if you've got 100 people and their health needs are dire, you'll never get the amount of funding required for those 100 people."
Across the parties, almost all candidates believe there should be a greater focus on mental health.
Advance NZ Rangitīkei candidate Ricky Cribb, who has a background in mental health, said core legislation surrounding the issue was flawed.
"Mental health is the most important facet. I have a mental health background over almost a decade, and I've lost my son also."
"The Mental Health Act and compulsory treatment orders need to be amended. The Mental Health Act is a short-term fix for pharmaceuticals, but not a long-term solution. We need to look at natural medicines, naturopathy and homeopathy."
The issue of money was another common focus in the responses from the candidates.
Social Credit Whanganui candidate Heather Marion-Smith suggested alternative monetary theory as a way to fix our "broken" health system.
"The New Zealand health system is a mess at the moment. One of the big troubles with our district health boards is the way they're funded from the private sector. There's a special unit within the Ministry of Health that borrows from the debt markets.
"It's become a kind of doctrine, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the law of this land that says you have to borrow from the private sector."
All candidates were contacted for this story.