Prof Alistair Woodward*, A/Prof Andrea t’Mannetje**, Dr Dave McLean**, Prof Jeroen Douwes**, Prof John D Potter** (*Auckland and **Massey Universities)
Last year the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) chose not to accept the assessment of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in “Roundup”) was a “probable carcinogen”. Instead the EPA commissioned its own report which found that glyphosate is “unlikely to be genotoxic or carcinogenic”, a significant departure from IARC’s conclusion. An investigation by the Green MP Stefan Browning released two weeks ago raises serious questions about the process followed by the EPA. The controversy has been given fresh life by comments made by the Chief Scientist for the Authority, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth. Her attempt to justify what happened gives a muddled account of risk assessment, and misrepresents her own Authority’s publication. In this blog, we explain why it is important to understand the issues raised by the EPA pronouncements on glyphosate and the potential implications for chemical safety more generally. This is now particularly important as the EPA is about to undertake an expanded review of hazardous substances in New Zealand.
Dr George Disney, Dr Andrea Teng, Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Tony Blakely
There are striking inequalities in cancer incidence and mortality in NZ, by both ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In this blog, we introduce an interactive online tool that enables anyone from researchers, policy-makers, journalists and health practitioners to access high quality data on these vital, population-level health statistics. Examples we use include: massive declines in cardiovascular disease inequality, but still large inequalities such as widening gaps in mortality for diseases consistent with the obesity epidemic; and the fact that adults aged 25-44 years with no formal qualifications have had very little mortality decline in the last 30 years, begging the question “Why?”.
Dr Cristina Cleghorn, Associate Professor Nick Wilson, Professor Tony Blakely
This blog was triggered by the recent highly publicised review on the cancer risk from processed meat and red meat. Here we briefly look at this topic and also take a wider perspective on other aspects of meat consumption on human health and the environment, and risk communication.
Professor Tony Blakely, Dr Matt Soeberg and Associate Professor Diana Sarfati
Cancer survival estimates for 67 countries have recently been published for 10 cancer sites, in an exhaustive and thorough combined analysis (CONCORD-2). Never before has such a comparable set of survival estimates been available. And New Zealand does okay – not top of the list, but okay. We are usually worse than the country we love (or hate?) to compare ourselves with, Australia. Conversely, we are usually better than the UK – a wealthier country with presumably more healthcare resources at its disposable. This global study puts in context recent specific New Zealand-Australian comparisons – yes, New Zealand could do better but neither is it doing too badly.
Associate Professor Nick Wilson, Professor Tony Blakely, Dr Amber Pearson, Dr Nisha Nair
In a just published study (and accompanying evaluation summary and media release), we found that the NZ Government’s investment in HPV vaccination for girls is clearly a “good value-for-money” way to protect health – even at the modest 47% coverage. Because of slightly higher coverage for Māori girls, and higher anticipated future HPV-related diseased rates, the programme makes a contribution to reducing health inequalities. But a more intensive school-only vaccination programme (73% coverage as in Australia) would achieve more health gain and still be cost-effective. In this blog we discuss these findings and how the country could catch-up to the much higher HPV vaccination coverage levels seen in Australia and the UK.