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New Zealanders to participate in NZ Health Survey

Media Release

25 September 2006

Thousands of New Zealanders to participate in NZ Health Survey

More than 12,000 New Zealanders will be asked to participate in the Ministry of Health's biggest national population survey to find out how healthy we are.

Launched today, the 2006/2007 New Zealand Health Survey is also the first time that the nationwide poll will gather detailed information about child health based on 5000 child questionnaires, completed by parents and caregivers.

>From how much fruit you eat to how many times you see your GP, the results from the survey are critical in determining how healthy we are and how health services are used. The survey also tells us how many New Zealanders have chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma.

Interviewers will visit households throughout the country over the next 12 months.

Minister of Health Pete Hodgson says the answers New Zealanders give are an important part of developing health policies and strategies.

"Past surveys have shown there are inequalities in health and we want to make sure health services are directed at the areas that will give the highest benefits for all New Zealanders," Mr Hodgson says. "In order to know if we're making a difference, we need accurate data. The Health Survey data also helps us decide what our health priorities should be and where we should invest health resources." The new child health questionnaire includes questions on nutrition, physical activity and asthma.

"The reason it is important to include children is that they make up about a quarter of our population. If we don't have a good picture of children's health and wellbeing, we will be blind to emerging health issues. We know, for example, that poor nutrition and lack of physical activity in childhood can have a big impact on health throughout someone's life,"says Dr Pat Tuohy, the Ministry of Health's Chief Advisor for Child and Youth Health.

Dr Barry Borman, manager of Public Health Intelligence - the Ministry's epidemiology group - says interviewers will collect data on common long-term health conditions, lifestyle factors that contribute to health and overall physical and mental health.

This includes measuring the height and weight of participants which helps track changes in the number of overweight and obese New Zealanders over time.

"National population surveys provide the Ministry with reliable information about how healthy different groups of New Zealanders are, and their different patterns of using health services. It tells us what is happening in health in our communities, where things are improving and where more work needs to be done," Dr Borman says.

The Health Survey provides data which is not gathered in such detail through any other means. This information is used in developing programmes and strategies like Healthy Eating, Healthy Action or He Korowai Oranga: the Maori Health Strategy.

Previous surveys were in 1992/1993, 1996/1997 and 2002/2003. Some of the changes to this year's New Zealand Health Survey include: A separate child questionnaire which will collect detailed information on child health for the first time; A new section on oral health in the adult questionnaire; An improved section on mental health status and conditions in the adult questionnaire; An improved section on primary health care to measure New Zealanders' use of these services.

The information provided to interviewers is confidential.

The 2006/2007 New Zealand Health Survey will be launched by the Minister of Health Pete Hodgson at a reception at the Beehive today from 5pm.

The Ministry of Health will publish survey results in mid-2008.

For more information please go to www.moh.govt.nz/phi/surveys/nzhs


Questions and Answers What is the NZ Health Survey?

It is a survey that involves a sample of New Zealand's population. By using statistical methods, a sample is selected and surveyed. Estimates for the whole population can be made from the results. For example, a national population survey gives us national prevalence information for conditions such as obesity and diabetes. The National Research Bureau (NRB) has been contracted by the Ministry of Health to do the survey interviews. The survey collects information about: What health services people use and how often they use health services; Whether people have health risk factors, such as obesity or smoking; How many New Zealanders have been diagnosed with diabetes, asthma, heart disease and other chronic conditions; How healthy different groups of New Zealanders are across a range of topics.

How many people are participating in the survey? More than 12,000 New Zealanders from all ethnic groups will take part in the survey, including about 3000 Mâori adults and 1100 Mâori children, about 1000 Pacific adults and 400 Pacific children and approximately 1300 Asian adults and 500 Asian children.

What's new in the 2006/07 NZ Health Survey? Previous surveys were in 1992/1993, 1996/1997 and 2002/2003. The 2006/07 NZ Health Survey is the first to collect detailed data on child health issues through a separate questionnaire which covers: Health and development (general physical and mental health, chronic conditions, behaviour, discipline); Health service utilisation (primary health care, GPs, nurses, medical specialists, oral health care and other health care use, prescriptions, health advice over the phone, hospital use); Risk and protective factors (breastfeeding, nutrition, activity, physical measurements, early childhood care, passive smoking).

The adult questionnaire includes the same questions as earlier NZ Health Surveys so changes can be seen over time, however some sections have been added or altered for the 2006/07 survey to account for changes in policy or to monitor emerging issues such as An oral health section to monitor use of services, the level of unmet need for oral health services and regularity of care; An improved section on mental health to monitor diagnosed mental health conditions and levels of non-specific psychological distress in the population; An improved primary health care section to monitor accessibility, comprehensiveness of care, continuity and coordination of care, cultural sensitivity and quality of care.

How are survey respondents chosen? NRB chooses addresses at random from selected geographical areas throughout New Zealand. One person from each selected household aged 15 or over and a child from that household will be invited to participate. An NRB interviewer makes contact to arrange a suitable interview time. The adult survey takes about one hour to complete. The child survey (answered by the parent or primary caregiver) takes about 30 minutes. Interviewing takes place at a time and date to suit the participants, and they can stop the interview at any time if needed.

Do children answer the questionnaire themselves? No, questions are answered by the primary caregiver of a person aged under 15 years. The NZ Health Survey questions have been designed for use with adults.

Is the survey compulsory? No, but the information forms part of the government’s Official Social Statistics Programme and is used to help make important decisions about the health system, programmes and services.

How much does the NZ Health Survey cost? It is estimated that the NZ Health Survey will cost about $4 million to complete.

Who has approved this survey? The Multi-Regional Ethics Committee approved the 2006/07 NZ Health Survey, which means that it meets ethical standards for respect for individuals, informed consent, privacy and confidentiality, minimisation of harm, cultural and social responsibility.

How will people know if the person at their door is a genuine interviewer? NRB interviewers wear a badge with photo identification, and have a reference telephone number to establish they are a genuine interviewer.

Are interpreters and translations available? The New Zealand Health Survey information brochure is available in English, Mâori, Samoan, Chinese, Tongan, Hindi, Punjabi, Cook Island Mâori, Fijian, Niuean and Korean. Interpreters are arranged for interviews as needed. Participants are given the opportunity to request an interviewer of the same ethnicity or gender as themselves.

What will the information be used for? The Ministry of Health needs information from people who have good health as well as those with health problems. This is to provide a reliable picture of the health, and health needs of all New Zealanders. The information from the survey will be used by the Ministry of Health to monitor how well health goals are being met and to design programmes and services which better meet needs, particularly for groups with many health problems.

How is the privacy of participants protected? The information provided to interviewers is confidential and protected by the Privacy Act 1993. All interviewers sign a confidentiality agreement before survey work begins, stating that they are prohibited by law from disclosing any information to anyone except authorised staff. Names and contact details of participants are kept separate from the questionnaire data. No one is able to tell that a particular person has participated in the survey, and any identifying information is not recorded on datasets and will not be reported in the results publications. No personal details of participants are given to other government departments or researchers.

Doesn’t the Ministry of Health already have a lot of health data? The Ministry of Health already has data about hospitalisations, cancer registrations and other instances when people interact with the health system, however this information does not tell us about people who are not using health services or reveal many of the lifestyle factors that influence health, such as smoking, physical activity levels, living standards etc. The NZ Health Survey allows the Ministry of Health to monitor the health of all New Zealanders.

Why does the NZ Health Survey ask questions about gambling? The Ministry of Health is responsible for monitoring the prevalence and incidence of problem gambling ie, patterns of gambling behaviour that compromise, disrupt or damage health, personal, family or vocational pursuits. For more information see the Problem Gambling Strategy and the Gambling Act 2003.

Why does the NZ Health Survey ask questions about standard of living and hardship? The Ministry of Health is committed to reducing inequalities in health. Inequalities in health are not random: people from lower socio-economic groups have poorer health, greater exposure to risk factors, and poorer access to health services. In particular, people from low socio-economic groups have consistently poorer health outcomes in comparison with the rest of the population. In order to monitor the Ministry’s success in reducing inequalities in health, specific questions designed to measure socio-economic position are included in the NZ Health Survey. The 2006/07 NZ Health Survey includes the 25-item Economic Living Standards Index (ELSI-SF) developed by the Ministry of Social Development, and the 8-item New Zealand Index of Socioeconomic Deprivation for Individuals (NZiDep) developed by the Wellington School of Medicine.

Why does the NZ Health Survey ask for personal and household income? Income is a key measure of socioeconomic position. People on low incomes may find it more difficult to access health care services and may experience poorer health outcomes.

Why does the NZ Health Survey ask for date of birth? Date of birth is used to calculate exact age at the time of interview. Age is a fundamental biological determinant of health.

ENDS

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