Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker
The 1918 influenza pandemic began to kill New Zealanders 100 years ago today. Ultimately it killed 9000 NZ citizens and so is by far the largest natural disaster to hit this country. In this blog we reflect on this event and draw links with the present day pandemic risks (including from synthetic bioweapons). We highlight the importance of continuing to invest in public health infrastructure and pandemic preparedness and planning.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Cristina Cleghorn, Dr Nhung Nghiem, Prof Tony Blakely
The scientific case for lowering dietary salt intakes became a bit confused in recent years by studies which suggested that both low sodium (salt) intake and high sodium intake were associated with higher risk of death. But new research suggests that low sodium intakes are not associated with a higher risk of death and the results for low sodium intake in these other studies may be largely due to inaccurate measurement of sodium intake. So the scientific community can now more confidently recommend that governments progress interventions to reduce sodium levels in processed foods. This could substantially benefit health, reduce health inequalities and save health sector costs.
Tony Blakely, Andrea Teng, Sheree Gibb, Nhung Nghiem, Barry Milne, Andrew Sporle, Gabrielle Davie, Nevil Pierce, Ruth Cunningham, and on behalf of the Virtual Health Information Network
A key strategic advantage for NZ and research is our national routinely-collected datasets. This can generate new knowledge in academia, service delivery and policy. Conversely, NZ has some key barriers to overcome to make the best use of that data – most importantly, data systems infrastructure and research capacity. In this blog we consider these opportunities and barriers. We believe we are at a moment in time when a major centralized investment is required that will return dividends to NZ citizens and academics through better policy making and new knowledge discovery.
Prof Tony Blakely, Dr Andrea Teng, Prof Nick Wilson
Policy-makers need to know how much of ethnic inequalities in health are due to socioeconomic position and tobacco smoking, but quantifying this is surprisingly difficult. In this Blog, and accompanying video, we summarize new research using NZ’s linked census-mortality data, blended with innovative new ‘counterfactual’ methods to determine causal relationships that can shed light on policy-relevant questions. A half or more of Māori:European/Other inequalities in mortality are due to four socioeconomic factors (education, labour force status, income and deprivation), and this percentage is stable over time for males but increasing for females. Eradicating tobacco will not only improve mortality for all sociodemographic groups, but reduce absolute inequalities in mortality between Māori and European/Other by a quarter. It is hard to think of another intervention that will reduce inequalities by as much.
Richard Edwards, Anaru Waa, Janet Hoek, Louise Thornley, Nick Wilson.
ASPIRE 2025, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
World Smokefree Day is an apt day on which to propose some ideas that may greatly increase momentum for the achieving Smokefree Aotearoa 2025. Tobacco and vaping products such as e-cigarettes vary greatly in their likely adverse health effects and overall impact on population health. Reflecting this, the Ministry of Health announced in May that it will investigate ‘risk-proportionate’ regulation for tobacco and vaping products. This blog discusses public health considerations in developing the new regulatory framework, and proposes key features of a risk-proportionate approach. We argue the framework should aim to minimise harm and maximise benefits to population health by accelerating progress towards New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal. As well as clarifying the appropriate regulatory approaches to vaping products, we see an overwhelming need for much stronger regulation of smoked tobacco products, as these are vastly under-regulated in relation to the harm they cause.