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Second state of the nation's health


Second state of the nation's health report released

LIFE expectancy at birth for New Zealanders has increased steadily since 1950 - but for a newborn Maori or Pacific child it's still nine and five years less respectively than for Europeans and others.

That's one of the findings in the Ministry of Health's second annual Health and Independence Report 2002, released today by Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi.

"Building on last year's inaugural report, this year's focuses on the public health and disability system, the services it provides and what they contribute to the health of New Zealanders," says Dr Poutasi.

The report shows Government spent $1300 per person on health ten years ago, which has now increased to $1700 per head in 2000/01 dollars. Meanwhile, health's percentage of total Government expenditure rose from 14% to 18% in the ten years to 2000/01.

A large number of people are getting cared for by the publicly-funded health system. In 2000/01, 190,000 people received publicly-funded surgery.

Dr Poutasi says that despite criticisms about waiting lists, more people are being treated in hospitals. For example, orthopaedic surgery has increased by 4.8% a year since 1996/1997, while non-urgent surgery has increased by 5.2% a year.

"We know the health and disability system is not perfect. It is a demanding and busy environment and high expectations are placed on it each year, but this year's report shows the sector is working hard to meet those challenges.

"Over time successive Health and Independence Reports will focus increasingly on outcomes, such as what is being achieved by public funds and measuring the success of certain services."

One concerning trend is the increase in avoidable hospital admissions for conditions and diseases that could have been treated through primary care intervention.

"Since 1996/1997 there has been a 3.4% annual increase in such admissions, which is one of the reasons why the Government's put a lot of effort into its Primary Healthcare Strategy," says Dr Poutasi.

Primary Health Organisations should be able to influence these particular avoidable hospital admissions.

Generally health statistics in areas such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, present a less positive picture for Maori and Pacific peoples than for Europeans.

"The Government has recognised action on prevention and education is essential in tackling health inequalities. The Primary Healthcare Strategy is a major response, but other programmes such as He Korowai Oranga: Maori Health Strategy, the Pacific Health and Disability Action Plan are specifically aimed at reducing health inequalities.

About 100,000 health professionals including nurses and doctors are operating in New Zealand and those numbers are constantly increasing for most health professionals, as is the amount of public money spent on health and disability services.

The health workforce is becoming more specialised. While the number of active registered nurses rose from 707 to 853 per 100,000 people between 1990 and 2000, the number of enrolled nurses decreased from 187 to 112 per 100,000 during the same period.

The report says the health and disability workforce is constantly affected by the international demand for skilled health professionals, and pressures from an ageing population, working conditions and the impact of new health technologies.

Full copies of the Health and Independence Report 2002 are available on the Ministry of Health website www.moh.govt.nz, or hard copies will be available from January 13, 2003 through contacting the Ministry.


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