Public Health Expert

Associate Professor Nick Wilson trained as a medical doctor and subsequently specialised as a public health physician. He has over 270 Medline-indexed publications in peer-reviewed journals. His research interests include: the health economics of primary prevention (BODE³ Programme), tobacco use epidemiology and control, infectious disease control (particularly pandemic influenza but also other infectious diseases) Climate change and air pollution. He blogs for Public health Researcher.

‘Overjoyed’: a leading health expert on New Zealand’s coronavirus shutdown, and the challenging weeks ahead - Public Health Expert

Mar 24, 2020

Michael Baker, University of Otago Overjoyed. That’s not a word epidemiologists normally use, but that’s how I felt after hearing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement about New Zealand’s COVID-19 shutdown of everything except essential services for at least four weeks from midnight on Wednesday. More than anything, I just felt a huge sense of relief. That New Zealand would have to take this step has become more and more apparent with every passing day. Having looked at the COVID-19 exponential trajectory that we were on in New Zealand, there really was no sensible alternative but to do this. As the prime minister said in her address to the nation, while New Zealand had 102 COVID-19 cases at the time of making the announcement, those numbers will rise further. She referred to the risk of “tens … Read More

Why New Zealand needs to continue decisive action to contain coronavirus - Public Health Expert

Mar 19, 2020

Michael Baker, University of Otago and Nick Wilson, University of Otago With some of the toughest border restrictions and a newly-announced NZ$500 million boost to health services, New Zealand is among a small number of countries with a strategy to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand is also fortunate in having a brief window of opportunity to refine and roll out an effective response to COVID-19. At the time of writing, there were 20 confirmed cases in New Zealand, all related to overseas travel. There is no evidence of community transmission. This situation could change rapidly as mild cases may not seek medical attention, effectively resulting in “silent transmission”. This process has seen other countries slip into widespread community transmission. New Zealand is vulnerable until our testing rates and contact tracing capacity increases, potentially to the … Read More

COVID-19 has now reached New Zealand. How prepared is it to deal with a pandemic? - Public Health Expert

Mar 04, 2020

Michael Baker, University of Otago and Nick Wilson, University of Otago New Zealand joined 48 other countries affected by the novel coronavirus last week when health authorities confirmed the first COVID-19 case. The news prompted panic buying of supplies in some places, but it had long been expected. The management of the case seemed exemplary. Shortly after arriving in New Zealand from Iran, the person became unwell, rang the national health information service (Healthline) and was directed to a hospital where they were placed in isolation. Family members and fellow passengers on the flight were tracked and placed into home quarantine. As yet, there is no evidence of transmission to others and New Zealand remains at the “keep it out” stage of its pandemic plan. Preventing a pandemic Like many countries, New Zealand has two broad … Read More

Vaping very likely to improve health in NZ – but how does this compare with other options? - Public Health Expert

Mar 27, 2019

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Frederieke Petrović-van der Deen, Dr Cristina Cleghorn, A/Prof Coral Gartner, Prof Tony Blakely Our just-published modelling study suggests that easier access to nicotine via vaping as a replacement for tobacco smoking, will improve the health of the NZ population. The estimated health gain is about the same as 10% per annum tobacco tax increases per year for 15 years, or a national colorectal cancer screening programme. Considering all sources of uncertainty, our study supports cautious liberalisation of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes – as NZ is doing. In this blog we discuss this new study and issues that policy-makers should consider to maximise the potential health gain – and minimise risks. Our joint NZ/Australian team used a computer simulation model to estimate the likely net health impact of liberalising access to e-cigarettes in NZ (relative to a … Read More

The health impacts of the First World War for NZ: A Review - Public Health Expert

Oct 30, 2018

Nick Wilson, George Thomson, Jennifer A Summers, Glyn Harper, Evan Roberts This blog summarises our just-published article on the mortality and morbidity impacts of the First World War on the NZ population. While much is known about the large health burden of this conflict (especially for the direct participants), there are still various knowledge gaps eg, for the health impacts on the home front. The ongoing digitalisation of all the military files and key data abstracted from them should make it easier for researchers to fill these knowledge gaps in coming years. According to the Roll-of-Honour dataset for NZ military forces in the First World War (WW1), the last NZ soldiers “killed in action” died on 7 November 1918, one hundred years ago this year of writing. They were Donald Stewart Kennedy (see photo below), Frank Gardner, and Andrew … Read More

Closing New Zealand’s Borders to Mitigate a Severe Pandemic has Merit - Public Health Expert

Aug 09, 2018

Dr Matt Boyd, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Osman Mansoor & Prof Michael Baker Should an island nation like New Zealand close its borders in the face of a severe pandemic threat? In a SciBlogs post last year we argued ‘yes’. We have just published additional modelling that also comes to this conclusion. In a severe pandemic tens to hundreds of thousands of New Zealand lives could be lost, based on the plausible scenarios that we used. A timely and effective border closure could prevent this loss of life and health costs from illness. Such benefits would far outweigh the disruptions to the economy, including from a temporary end to tourism from international travellers. Now, in an improved and updated analysis, we find an even stronger case for border closure to mitigate the threat of a pandemic or novel catastrophic … Read More

Climate change and recent actions of NZ political parties - Public Health Expert

Sep 15, 2017

Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Richard Edwards, Dr Cristina Cleghorn, Prof Michael Baker, Dr Caroline Shaw, A/Prof Ralph Chapman, Prof Philippa Howden-Chapman The health organisation OraTaiao convened a group of experts to analyse the climate change policies of NZ political party policies. It gave the highest grade to the Green Party, then the Labour Party, and then The Opportunities Party (TOP). This blog takes a supplementary approach, looking at actual climate related actions taken in the last Parliamentary term (since late 2014). It suggests that relative to its power in the Parliament, the Green Party has done the best. The National Party has an overall poor performance grading – given the many opportunities it has had in Government. Voters who are asking “What is best for NZ society and the planet in the long-term?” may wish to put weight on … Read More

A Statue of Merit: Dr Margaret Cruickshank and the 1918 influenza pandemic - Public Health Expert

Sep 12, 2017

Nick Wilson, Ben Schrader, Geoff Rice, Christine Clement, George Thomson, Catharine Ferguson, Michael Baker Some statues are getting bad press at present – and rightly so for the Confederate military statues which represent the racist history of the Southern United States. But in this blog we briefly look at a particular New Zealand statue that we think characterises some of the best aspects of public monuments: the statue of Dr Margaret Cruickshank who died caring for patients during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Statues commemorating the racist Confederate leaders of the American Civil War are getting bad press at present in the USA and internationally. Some have been pulled down or officially removed following the uproar over the General Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville. The controversy has also started to involve some memorials to US doctors whose activities can … Read More