02 June 2022

The Deputy Public Service Commissioner has today announced the appointment of Dr Diana Sarfati as Acting Director-General of Health and Chief Executive, Ministry of Health.

Dr Diana Sarfati

Dr Sarfati will act in the role until a permanent appointee takes up the Director-General position.

The Director-General of Health is a pivotal role leading a sector critical to the overall wellbeing of New Zealanders.

The Ministry of Health is the Government's chief advisor on health matters. The Director-General of Health will lead the Ministry and, alongside the chief executives of Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority, the wider sector through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the forthcoming significant change to New Zealand’s health system.  As the chief steward for the health system, the Ministry will continue to set the strategic direction for health and will be responsible for developing national policy, regulation and monitoring.

Dr Sarfati is currently Chief Executive of Te Aho o Te Kahu, Cancer Control Agency. Prior to this Dr Sarfati was National Director of Cancer Control at the Ministry of Health to oversee the implementation of the agency.

Dr Sarfati is a public health physician, cancer epidemiologist and health services researcher with a world-leading reputation in cancer control strategy and research. Between 2015 and 2019 Dr Sarfati was co-head and then head of the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Public Health and Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees from the University of Otago. She is a Fellow of the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine and is registered with the New Zealand Medical Council.

“I am very pleased to appoint Dr Sarfati to this acting role,” said Deputy Public Service Commissioner Helene Quilter. “She has been an impressive leader at the Cancer Control Agency.”

“Dr Sarfati has considerable experience and a sound understanding of New Zealand’s health system and has strong relationships across the sector.”

Dr Sarfati will start on 30 July 2022, when the incumbent Dr Ashley Bloomfield leaves the role. Nicola Hill will act as Chief Executive of the Cancer Control Agency while Dr Sarfati is acting Director-General of Health.

The Commission is running a recruitment process for the permanent Director-General of Health role and will advertise shortly.

Media queries: Grahame Armstrong 021 940 457 or grahame.armstrong@publicservice.govt.nz


Dr Sarfati has been Chief Executive of the Cancer Control Agency since May 2020. From September to November 2019, she was the National Director of Cancer Control at the Ministry of Health.

Between 2015 and 2019 Dr Sarfati was co-head and then head of the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health. She was Director of the Cancer and Chronic Disease Research Group at University of Otago.  She has worked at University of Otago Department of Public Health since 2004 and was Associate Professor and Professor there from 2013. Her work has been focused on health systems, addressing inequity in health and cancer.

For three years, 2006-2009, she was Regional Director of Training at the Australasian College of Public Health Medicine.

Dr Sarfati has a PhD from the University of Otago, is NZ College of Public Health Medicine Fellow and until 2008 was a Fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

She completed her Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) at the University of Otago in 1991.

Dr Sarfati has held a number of national and international roles. She is currently a commissioner for the Lancet Commission on Health Systems and Cancer, a member of the International Advisory Committee to Lancet Oncology, a member of the Board of the International Cancer Benchmarking Programme (ICBP), and a member of the Advisory Committee to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) Pacific cancer hub.