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NZer's 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

New Zealand Health Strategy, which is currently being planned.

ENDS

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