I am an epidemiologist and public health researcher. My research activities span mortality studies, health inequalities, healthy eating, tobacco and cancer control. I teach advanced epidemiology methods. I currently direct the Burden of Disease Epidemiology, Equity and Cost effectiveness programme (BODE3) where we are modelling the health impact, cost and cost effectiveness of preventive and cancer control interventions.

The Brits are doing it: likely health benefits from a levy on soft drinks

Friday, December 16th, 2016 | TONY BLAKELY | No Comments


Prof Tony Blakely, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Cristina Cleghorn, Dr Linda Cobiac

A study published today finds that the UK soft drink levy being introduced in 2017 is likely to benefit health (reduced obesity, diabetes and dental caries) – when considering a range of different Drinks Industry responses. In this Blog we comment on these results and the possible implications for countries like New Zealand.

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An open letter to Cabinet Ministers from 74 health professors calling for a sugary drinks tax

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016 | TONY BLAKELY | 9 Comments


In this Public Health Expert blog, we reproduce a letter that appeared in the NZ Herald on 2 April 2016. Professors Boyd Swinburn, Rod Jackson, and Cliona Ni Mhurchu led the writing. 

Dear Cabinet Ministers,

We are very concerned by New Zealand’s appallingly high rate of childhood obesity, the fourth highest in the world. In addition, every year more than 5000 children under 8 years old require general anaesthetic operations to remove rotten teeth (1). We applaud the government for making childhood obesity a national health priority, however, its action plan of 22 ‘soft’ strategies, which was launched last year with no extra funding, is not sufficient to change current trends. We urge you to implement a significant tax on sugary drinks as a core component of strengthened strategies to reduce childhood obesity and dental caries.

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The humility of being second to Australia in cancer mortality

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | No Comments


Professor Tony Blakely, Assoc Professor Diana Sarfati

There is nothing like being second to Australia to galvanize angst and consternation among Kiwis. Today Alafeishat and colleagues have published a paper in the NZ Medical Journal showing that New Zealand has higher death rates from cancer than Australia that cannot be explained by higher incidence for most sites. This suggests that there are differences in cancer survival, which appear to be particularly marked for bowel cancer, and for breast cancer for women. This is important, highlighting room to improve in our health sector. This blog we canvass how bad (or good) the situation really is, the problems and possible sources of error comparing survival across the ditch (it is not easy to do), and we conclude with policy implications. Continue reading

Insights into health system costs of living and dying in New Zealand – New study

Friday, May 2nd, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | No Comments


Professor Tony Blakely and Associate Professor Nick Wilson (and on behalf of co-authors June Atkinson, Giorgi Kvizhinadze, Nhung Nghiem, and Heather McLeod)

A study in the NZ Medical Journal shows how public spending on health varies markedly by age and proximity to death (Blakely et al 2014, health system costs). It raises interesting questions about the best use of taxpayer funds for preventing and treating ill health. In this blog we detail the main findings of this study and reflect some of the possible implications. Continue reading

Taxes on fizzy drinks in NZ: preventing premature deaths and raising funds for health

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | 4 Comments


   Tony Blakely, Cliona Ni Mhurchu  and Nick Wilson

A task of public health research is to quantify the health impact of interventions that are upstream and are political.  In the food environment, we strongly suspect that regulation of the food industry, food reformulation, marketing and price (i.e. taxes and subsidies) will be some of the most effective interventions to address obesity and poor nutrition.  Indeed, much international research supports this (e.g. [1]).  Today some of us have published research in the NZ Medical Journal that finds that about 67 premature deaths a year might be prevented by a 20% tax on fizzy drinks. And that there might be up to $40 million of revenue raised by such a tax.  (Also see TVNZ interview of Ni Mhurchu and Radio NZ interview of Blakely on this research.) In this blog we overview the uncertainty about these findings, the role of researchers in generating such findings, and possible policy implications.fizzy drink tax Continue reading