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King launches new health research partnership

King launches new health research partnership with Massey University

Health Minister Annette King says a new research partnership will produce quality public health information that will be used to improve the overall health status of New Zealanders.

The Ministry of Health's Public Health Intelligence (PHI) Group and the SHORE research centre at Massey University have established the partnership.

Ms King, in Auckland today to launch the initiative, said the partnership would combine SHORE's expertise in public health surveys and research - particularly in the areas of alcohol and drugs - and PHI's expertise in applied epidemiology.

“This partnership will produce high-quality survey reports and analyses. Good information on how healthy New Zealanders are will enable us to target public health programmes and resources where they are most needed,'' she said.

The partnership's first major project, starting in April, would be a national population survey of drug use. “More than 8000 New Zealanders will be surveyed to provide a valuable picture of drug use, both legal and illegal, and an insight into who is most at risk of developing conditions or diseases related to drug use.”

Ms King said minimising the harm caused by alcohol and drug use is one of the 13 population health objectives in the New Zealand Health Strategy. “This is a priority for the health sector in the short to medium term. The survey will look at alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and hallucinogenic, stimulant and opiate drugs.

“Results from this survey, combined with two national drug use surveys in 1998 and 2001, will tell us more about drug trends in New Zealand, particularly about ‘party drugs' such as amphetamines, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

“The 2001 survey showed one in five people had used marijuana in the past year, while one in 20 people said they had used amphetamines or methamphetamine in the same period. The new survey will show if this has changed.''

Ms King said the new partnership will work together on the New Zealand Health Monitor (NZHM), a programme of national population health surveys measuring the health status and risk behaviours of New Zealanders. The surveys will cover areas such as drug and tobacco use, height and weight, diet and exercise, and sexual and reproductive health.

For more information: John Harvey (04) 471 9305 or Zoe Priestley (04) 470 6851
Questions and Answers

What is a national population survey? A sample of New Zealand's population is selected and surveyed by statistical methods. Estimates for the whole population can be made from the results, for example, the national prevalence for conditions such as diabetes.

Why are national population surveys important? The information they provide is critical to the Health Ministry's ability to plan and prioritise services and policy initiatives.

When was New Zealand's first national population survey launched? In 1978 - the Heart Foundation's National Dietary Survey.

What is an example of a policy influenced by health survey information? Three national nutrition surveys spanning 20 years (1978,1989,1997) made it possible to identify that an obesity epidemic began in NZ in the 1980s and accelerated in the 1990s. Evidence provided by these three surveys contributed to the selection of obesity, nutrition and physical activity as three of the 13 priority objectives for the NZ Health Strategy.

Who will be surveyed in the SHORE partnership drug use survey? A total of 8112 randomly selected New Zealanders aged 13 to 65 years.

What sort of response rate was there in the previous drug use surveys? The 1998 survey had a response rate of 79 percent, which increased slightly to 80 percent in 2001.

How long will the survey be in the field? From April 2003 to September 2003. The results will be known soon after.

Has the Public Health Intelligence (PHI) Group entered into any other collaborative relationships with universities and research institutions? Yes. In November 2002 PHI launched two partnerships with Victoria University. The first is to fund graduate scholarships in statistics, which will add capacity for PHI's health survey analysis. The second has established PHIAL (the PHI Applications Laboratory) within the School of Earth Sciences. This enables research that makes use of specialist skills in geographical information systems applied to a whole range of health issues.

Are more of these partnerships planned? Yes. PHI is working with Massey University to establish a partnership with its Statistics Department. Other partnerships will be explored on a case-by-case basis.

Why are these partnerships are beneficial? It makes sense to use the diverse resources available in this country as fully as possible to analyse the health of New Zealanders and producing epidemiological evidence for public health policy and programme development.

What is the New Zealand Health Monitor (NZHM)? It is an integrated health survey programme operating over 10-year cycles that provides a continuous stream of relevant time series data needed to manage the health sector strategically at both national and district levels.

Who manages the NZHM? The Public Health Intelligence Group manages the daily programmes. Specialised survey providers carry out the component surveys.

When was the NZHM launched? August 2002. The document is on the Ministry website: www.moh.govt.nz

Who will be the key users of information gathered under the NZHM? District Health Boards, iwi and other Maori organisations and communities, the Minister of Health, Ministry of Health, other central government agencies, health non-government organisations and community groups, researchers and academics, media outlets, politicians, and the public.

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