30 November 2022

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

Dr Diana Sarfati, Director-General of Health and Chief Executive, Ministry of Health

The Ministry of Health is the Government’s chief advisor and steward of New Zealand’s public health system. As part of reforming the health system, the Ministry’s role is being refocussed on strategy, policy, regulation and monitoring the outcomes achieved by the system as a whole. to ensure the health system delivers for all New Zealanders, with a focus on achieving more equitable outcomes for Māori.

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

“Dr Sarfati has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the public health system in New Zealand and I am very pleased to announce her appointment to the role,” said Ms Quilter.

“She is a respected and skilled senior leader with a public sector, clinical and academic background. She is very knowledgeable about the health reforms and is dedicated to improving equity of outcomes in the health system.”

Dr Sarfati is currently the Acting Director-General of Health and Chief Executive, Ministry for Health, a role she has held since July 2022. As the Acting Director-General, Dr Sarfati has focused on implementing and embedding the health system reforms.

In her substantive role as Chief Executive, Te Aho o Te Kahu, the Cancer Control Agency, Dr Sarfati made good progress towards the goals and outcomes of the New Zealand Cancer Action Plan 2019-2029.

Ms Quilter said Dr Sarfati brings the skills and experience required to lead the Ministry of Health, and to contribute to the strategic leadership of the wider health system.

Dr Sarfati holds 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.

She has been appointed for five years from 1 December.



Dr Sarfati has been Acting Director-General of Health since July this year.

She has been Chief Executive of Te Aho o Te Kahu, 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 a 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.

Media queries: Sam Rossiter-Stead 021 596 608 or  Sam.Rossiter-Stead@publicservice.govt.nz