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NZers Health Improved, But Still A Long Way To Go

9 February 2000

New Zealanders Health Improved, But Still A Long Way To Go

The health of New Zealanders has improved greatly over the past 50 years but many challenges lie ahead, a new Ministry of Health report shows.

Director-General of Health, Dr Karen Poutasi, today launched Our Health, Our Future - Hauora Pakari, Koiora Roa: The Health of New Zealanders 1999. The five-yearly publication analyses the health of New Zealanders, and trends and inequalities in people's health status.

Dr Poutasi said New Zealand men could now expect to live on average to just over 74 years and women to nearly 80 years. This compared to 67 years for men and 71 for women in 1950.

"While there is much to take heart from in the report, it also contains some findings of concern. The report shows Maori and those from lower socio economic backgrounds experience shorter lives and poorer health than Europeans and those from more affluent areas.

"These findings are among the many challenges this report presents to policy and decision makers. Our Health, Our Future will guide the development of policies aiming to reduce ethnic and socio-economic health inequalities, and to boost the health of all New Zealanders.

Dr Poutasi said the data on why people were dying prematurely or becoming ill showed there was potential for considerable health gain. The report found that nearly 70 per cent of deaths in the 0-74 age group were theoretically avoidable. Health promotion and disease prevention provided the key to reducing avoidable deaths, she said.

"The report re-emphasises the need to eliminate tobacco consumption, improve our diet and lead more active lives. It confirms that obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are robbing people of their quality of life and are important causes of people dying younger than expected.

"Individuals, communities, local and central government as well as the health sector itself can make a difference to the impact chronic diseases are having on ourselves and our families.

"The importance of primary care providers like GPs, nurses and Maori and Pacific providers is also highlighted, as they can identify people at high risk of these diseases. They can help them make the necessary lifestyle changes and treat conditions before complications develop."

Dr Poutasi said that the report will also be an important resource for Government's - New Zealand Health Strategy- which is currently being planned.


For more information contact:

Annie Coughlan, Media Advisor, 04 496 2483 or 025 277 5411 Internet Address;\

(A copy of the report has been posted to the website under the hard copy publications section)

Professor Charlotte Paul Professor of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago (Ph 03 479 7207)

Question and Answer;

What is the aim of the report?

The aim of Our Health, Our Future - Hauora Pakari, Koiora Roa. The Health of New Zealanders 1999 is to provide reliable information on the health status of the population, as an input into policy advice. It helps monitor trends and needs and forecasts future health issues. It provides one way to evaluate the success of health policies.

The report is intended to be a resource for a wide range of people, including health planners and policy analysts, health service funders and providers, community groups and anyone with an interest.

The findings of the report have already been used to brief the incoming Minister of Health, Hon Annette King, on the health of New Zealanders. The report will be a key resource in developing the Government's "New Zealand Health Strategy".

The Ministry welcomes comments on the report which should be addressed to the Policy Branch, Ministry of Health, PO Box 5013, Wellington.

What does it cover?

Our Health, Our Future looks at both how long people live and their health related quality of life. It compares the health status of New Zealanders with people in other countries. Within New Zealand it provides age, gender, socio-economic and ethnic comparisons. It does not give geographical breakdowns. A lack of data meant specific statistics on Pacific people and Asian New Zealanders could not be estimated in many cases.

The report covers;

risks of dying at different ages and how they vary between genders, ethnic and socio-economic groups major causes of death people's own perception of their health the level of disability in the population kinds of illnesses leading to consultation with GPs or to hospital admissions how many years of life a person can expect to be able to live independently, free of disability needing assistance the burden of disease avoidable causes of death and hospitalisation comparisons of New Zealanders health status with other developed countries impact of a number of major risk factors (including biological and lifestyle factors).

How often is it produced?

It is intended that a comprehensive report on population health will be produced about every five years. The first report was published in 1994.

A report called Progress on Health Outcome Targets is produced annually. It measures results against specific health targets.

Where is the information from?

Population data were obtained from Statistics New Zealand. The New Zealand Health Information Service provided data on causes of death, cancer registrations and hospitalisations. Data on chronic diseases, disability and risk factors came mostly from four national surveys;

1996-1997 New Zealand Health Survey (Statistics New Zealand)

1997 National Nutrition Survey (University of Otago)

1996 Household Disability Survey (Statistics New Zealand)

1997 Disability Survey of Residential Facilities (Statistics New Zealand)

The report uses 1996-1998 data, the most recent information available at the time. Updated statistics from the New Zealand Health Information Service are posted to its website ( as they become available.

Who was involved in the report?

Ministry of Health staff prepared the report, assisted by the Health Funding Authority and experts from universities and other organisations. The report was peer reviewed by experts both within New Zealand and internationally.

Fact sheets and the report will be available on the Ministry of Health's website under the hard copy publications section from 3.30pm. Internet address;

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