A fat week – debates about saturated fat that will not go away

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | TONY BLAKELY | 7 Comments

Professor Tony Blakely

I was in Brisbane this week, teaching epidemiological methods to improve the quality and causal inference of our research – more of that below.  During the week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) broadcast a documentary supposedly debunking the science on the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.

One of the criticisms leveled on the programme went right back to original research by Ancel Keys in the Seven Countries studies post World War II showing a strong correlation between the rates of cardiovascular death in countries with saturated fat intake.  The criticism?  When you put more than just the seven studies on a graph, the correlation looks weaker.  Fair enough, as such ‘ecologic’ studies are prone to error – but of course they are also prone to missing important associations as well, such as the association of saturated fat with heart disease.  Continue reading

Mobile phone use while driving: Do we need smartcars that turn off smartphones?

Monday, October 21st, 2013 | Kate Sloane | 1 Comment

Associate Professor Nick Wilson

New Zealand still has a problem with the use of mobile phones while driving, even though a recent law may have helped somewhat. This blog discusses recent research and suggest ways to make further progress on reducing this persisting hazard.

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What will it take to get to under 5% smoking prevalence 2025? Lots of cessation.

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 | TONY BLAKELY | 3 Comments

Professor Tony Blakely

Professor Tony Blakely and Assoc Professor Nick Wilson

The New Zealand Government has a goal of a Smokefree Nation by 2025, often interpreted as a smoking prevalence of less than 5% by 2025.    This should be a major focus of the New Zealand contingent at the Smokefree Oceania Conference in Auckland next week.  But what would it take in the way of reductions in uptake (or initiation), and/or increases in cessation rates, to achieve this goal?

We try to answer this question in a paper just published in the international journal Tobacco Control, led by Tak Ikeda and a presentation that he will also give at the conference next week.  The answer differs by ethnicity.  Essentially, 10% of non-Māori smokers need to quit each year to achieve 5% smoking prevalence by 2025 for non-Māori.  And 20% for Māori.  We concluded that changes in initiation rates are not as important as changes in cessation rates to achieve the 2025 goal.

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Advance Care Planning – good for patient care and better use of health dollars?

Monday, October 14th, 2013 | Kate Sloane | 2 Comments

Dr Ben Gray, General Practitioner, Primary Health Care & General Practice Department, University of Otago, Wellington

Dr Ben Gray

Advance Care Planning (or ACP) is the process of thinking about, talking about and planning for future health care and end of life care. In its delivery, this seems a very clinically focussed, individual health care process, so what relevance has it got for Public Health?

Actually a lot. We know that we spend around seven times more in the last year of life than the average spent in all other years of a patient’s life (2). This problem will be exacerbated as the baby boomers die.

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Food taxes and subsidies will probably protect health & reduce inequalities – but the devil is in the detail

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 | TONY BLAKELY | 2 Comments

Professors Tony Blakely, Cliona Ni Mhurchu and Nick Wilson

Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu

Research teams we lead have published two papers in the last few weeks on food taxes and subsidies – both of which depend on what are called price elasticities.  Timely, in light of the launch last week of Appetite for Destruction that is focusing public attention on our food environment, including taxes and subsidies on food. Continue reading