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DHBs continue making progress on health targets

18 July 2008

Media Release

DHBs continue making progress on health targets

All the country’s district health boards continue making progress on the 10 annual health targets, chalking up big gains in tobacco control and in reducing hospital admissions for children under five, Director-General of Health Stephen McKernan said today.

“Overall progress continued to be good in the third quarter,” Mr McKernan noted.

“There have been slips in performance in some target areas like cancer waiting times, but the rebound has been quick.”

“It’s not easy meeting these targets. What is most important though, and what makes me confident, is the enthusiasm and willingness of DHBs to lift performance and contribute to a national improvement in the target areas.”

The report covers the third quarter of the financial year, January to March 2008.

In tobacco control, target increases this year in the number of 14 to 15-year-old students who have never smoked and the number of homes with a no-smoking policy have been met.

"The steady progress we have achieved in the past nine months is clear evidence of how focused action by DHBs can make a difference."

"We are well advanced in discussions with DHBs for 2008/09 targets, and the emerging consensus is to aim higher."

Hospital admissions for children aged under five dropped by almost 10 per cent across all ethnic groups in the 12 months ending September 2007.

“These results reflect the Government’s investment in primary health care. Access to primary health care has improved as the cost to patients has fallen.”

The third quarterly report on progress towards the health targets is published on the Ministry of Health’s website:


Background information: Third quarter update on the health targets

1. Improving immunisation coverage: Sustained efforts by DHBs have led to a six per cent increase in the national immunisation coverage to 73 per cent (equivalent to 29,855 two-year-old children) as of March 2008. The challenge now is to increase the opportunities for working parents to get their children immunised.

2. Improving oral health: DHBs continue making progress to increase access to oral health services for adolescents by working with dentists and other health providers and raising awareness of the services amongst adolescents and their parents. This target is measured annually and the next results will be available in the next quarter's report.

3. Improving elective services: As in the previous quarter, 15 of the 21 DHBs appropriately managed patients referred to them for elective assessment or treatment. Seven DHBs also exceeded their respective target increase in the level of elective patient discharges.

4. Reducing cancer waiting times: Statutory holidays and staff leave during the Christmas/New Year period caused a slip in cancer waiting times in January and early February 2008. But most cancer centres rebounded quickly so that by March 2008, 92 per cent of patients in categories A, B and C – the three categories of patients who need urgent treatment – were treated within the target timeframe of eight weeks from their first specialist assessment. To further improve waiting times, the Ministry of Health is working with DHBs towards sharing capacity across the six cancer centres and invest in additional and replacement linear accelerators.

5. Reducing avoidable hospital admissions: The latest 12-month national data show the number of hospital admissions that are potentially preventable by effective primary health care fell by 2271 as of September 2007, down 2.1 per cent from the previous year. Admissions for children aged under five years old dropped by almost 10 per cent across all ethnic groups. This was a significantly positive result, particularly for the individual children and their families who were able to avoid hospitalisation.

6. Improving diabetes services: Reporting on this target will be resumed in the fourth quarter to give DHBs more time to gather the necessary data from their respective Primary Health Organisations.

7. Improving mental health services: Seven DHBs have already met the target of having treatment and relapse prevention plans for at least 90 per cent of their clients with long-term mental illness. Overall use of these relapse plans increased to 75 per cent as of March 2008, up from 64 per cent the previous quarter.

8. Improving nutrition, increasing physical activity, reducing obesity: DHBs are working with the Ministry of Health to finalise their action plans to promote breast-feeding and increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, particularly in Maori and Pacific communities.

9. Reducing the harm caused by tobacco: The number of 14 to 15-year-old students who have never smoked rose 4.2 per cent to 57.9 per cent in 2007. The number of homes with a no-smoking policy also increased from 70 per cent to 75.1 per cent during the period. With targets for this year already met, goalposts will be set higher next year: to increase the number of "never smokers" to at least 60.9 per cent and to reduce prevalence of exposure to second-hand smoke in the home to less than five per cent. Higher increases for both Maori and Pacific, compared to New Zealand Europeans, will also be targeted to narrow ethnic inequalities in this area.

10. Reducing the percentage of the health budget spent on the Ministry of Health: the Ministry’s actual expenditure for the year to date was 1.87 per cent of the total Vote Health appropriations. The Ministry remains on track to achieve the target to reduce this to 1.65 per cent.

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