Public Health Expert

Urgently upgrading NZ’s Covid-19 response - Public Health Expert

Jun 24, 2021

Amanda Kvalsvig, Nick Wilson, and Michael Baker Aotearoa NZ’s effective Covid-19 elimination strategy is now threatened by the global emergence of new variants with increasingly high transmissibility. We outline the upgrades that are now urgently needed to keep New Zealanders safe, particularly in the light of the current outbreak risk in Wellington. Immediate actions include upgrading the Alert Level system with a particular focus on mask use, making the Covid Tracer App compulsory for high risk indoor venues, rapidly vaccinating all remaining border and frontline health workers, ensuring that all New Zealanders are able to stay at home when required, and upgrading the Trans-Tasman Bubble settings. The pandemic virus (SARS-CoV-2) continues to evolve and in several respects we are now experiencing a very different pandemic from that of 2020. The Delta variant now accounts for 99% of Covid-19 transmission … Read More

Health co-benefits need to be adequately considered in the Climate Change Commission’s final advice - Public Health Expert

Jun 21, 2021

Tim Chambers, Simon Hales, Jude Ball, Michael Baker, Cristina Cleghorn, Nick Wilson (*Author details) The Climate Change Commission’s final advice to the Government has been tabled in Parliament. This final report further acknowledged the potential health co-benefits of climate action presented in the Commission’s draft advice. However, the Commission has excluded these health co-benefits from its economic analyses, which currently predict a reduction in GDP of 0.2-1.0% in 2035 and 0.3-0.7% in 2050. Thus, the Commission’s final advice inadequately accounts for the financial benefits of reduced air and water pollution, increased active transport, improved housing and improved diets that could potentially result in net long-term savings to society from responding to climate change. The Climate Change Commission’s final advice to the Government made incremental improvements by acknowledging a broader range of evidence on the health co-benefits of climate change mitigation … Read More

Update on Long-COVID - Public Health Expert

Jun 15, 2021

Prof John D. Potter* This blog post updates an earlier post on Long-COVID and reports that estimates of prevalence are still wide at about 15 to 65% of those initially infected with the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2. As things stand now across the world, we do not yet have systems in place to diagnose and manage the massive burden of the disease that is Long-COVID. An elimination strategy that includes, but is not limited to, widespread vaccination is not only crucial to reduce the acute case load and high mortality associated with infection with SARS-CoV-2 but is also key to minimising the damage that Long-COVID is otherwise certain to create for individuals, whanau, communities, and nations. This is a “long-read” post – and so readers short on time are welcome to jump to the Conclusions Section. Long-COVID may be unique … Read More

A Smokefree Aotearoa Action Plan: Why this could eliminate smoking disparities for Māori - Public Health Expert

May 28, 2021

Andrew Waa, Heather Gifford, Shane Bradbrook The recent release of the Government’s “Proposals for a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan” (the  Plan) represents a significant step forward in how we think about tobacco control1. The Plan specifically references eliminating smoking related inequities, strengthening Māori governance and fulfilling government commitments to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as an essential part of achieving our Smokefree 2025 goal (SF2025). This blog considers the implications of the measures described in the plan for Māori.   We start this blog by reviewing the background that led to Māori leaders mooting kaupapa Tupeka Kore and the eventual government commitment to the SF2025 goal. We then discuss the implications of the Action Plan in relation to kaupapa Tupeka Kore and high rates of smoking among Māori. The views offered in this blog are those of the authors only … Read More

New Modelling on the Risk of COVID-19 Outbreaks in NZ Associated with Arriving Travellers - Public Health Expert

May 28, 2021

Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Martin Eichner*  In this blog we detailed our just published modelling work on estimating the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks associated with air travel to NZ. We find that the risks are typically very low for travel from Australia (a “green zone” country with small occasional outbreaks from border system failures). But these risks go up if there are larger outbreaks in Australia and especially for travel from other countries (e.g., from an “amber zone” country like Japan or a “red zone” country as per the US during 2020) where rigorous border controls including 14-day quarantine are still required. With the spread of more infectious SARS-CoV-2 variants it is critical that very rigorous ongoing scientific risk assessment is used for NZ and all aspects of border control are optimised for the differing risk posed … Read More

Illicit tobacco trade and the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Goal: Arguments and Evidence - Public Health Expert

May 27, 2021

Dr Allen Gallagher, Dr Lindsay Robertson, Prof Janet Hoek, Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Richard Edwards* The NZ Government has published proposals for an Action Plan to achieve the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Goal. This blog is one of a series examining key aspects of the proposals to help inform the debate and submissions. Here we examine the illicit tobacco trade. We examine the extent of the problem in NZ, consider how proposals in the Action Plan could affect the illicit tobacco trade in NZ, and discuss ways of mitigating any potential problems. Introduction Illicit tobacco trade undermines tobacco control measures, such as tobacco taxation, which are effective in reducing youth smoking uptake and increasing quitting [1]. To ensure life-saving public health policies achieve their intended goal, illicit tobacco trade needs to be kept to an absolute minimum. The NZ … Read More

Evidence supports a proposed Parliamentary Bill to reduce harm from alcohol sponsorship of sport - Public Health Expert

May 26, 2021

Dr Tim Chambers, Dr Nicki Jackson, Dr Amanda Jones, Dr Jude Ball, Prof Louise Signal, Dr Moira Smith, Christina McKerchar, Prof Janet Hoek (*Author details) Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick recently announced a Member’s Bill to end alcohol sponsorship of sport, acting on recommendations by three Government-commissioned bodies and the World Health Organization. Viable sponsorship replacement models already exist and could easily be implemented to support sporting organisations to transition away from alcohol industry reliance. The Bill, if enacted, will provide comprehensive well-being benefits for all New Zealanders and is an important step in the right direction to improving health equity. The Bill aligns with the recommendations from the 2010 Law Commission review of New Zealand’s alcohol laws,1 the 2014 Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship,2 the 2018 Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry3 and the World Health Organization.4 In this … Read More

How to best describe NZ’s border control problems around COVID-19 with a possible typology - Public Health Expert

May 24, 2021

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Leah Grout, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker* Particular words and phrases can frame how issues are considered and the extent to which they imply the need for a corrective response to improve system design or delivery. After considering a range of words, we consider that the phrase “border system failure” comes closest to providing a clear, unambiguous description of situations where there are infectious cases in the community and corrective action is needed to protect public health. A typology for describing problems within NZ’s border control system could also include ways of classifying “border system hazards” that may represent “near misses” that should also stimulate corrective actions. Some of us have previously written on the need to improve pandemic terminology in the NZ context.1 But of particular concern is the need to … Read More

Nitrate contamination in drinking water and adverse birth outcomes: emerging evidence is concerning for NZ - Public Health Expert

May 24, 2021

Dr Tim Chambers, Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Simon Hales, Prof Michael Baker*   While there is growing evidence that nitrates in drinking water are a risk factor for bowel cancer, there is also emerging evidence concerning adverse birth outcomes such as prematurity. This blog takes a brief look at this new evidence and puts it into a NZ context. Nitrate is one of the most common drinking water contaminants in NZ, largely driven by agricultural activity (nitrogen fertiliser application and livestock urine). Nitrate leached into water from dairy farming has increased substantially since 1990 (see Figure 1). Recent studies linking nitrate levels as low as 0.87 mg/L NO3-N (from here on simply mg/L) in drinking water to bowel cancer have raised public concerns over nitrate contamination.1-3 Our recent study of the current nitrate levels in NZ drinking water showed as … Read More

Social Marketing for Smokefree Aotearoa 2025: Reminding, Reinforcing, and Changing Social Norms - Public Health Expert

May 21, 2021

Janet Hoek, Andrew Waa, Nick Wilson, Lindsay Robertson, Phil Gendall, George Thomson* The NZ Government’s Action Plan to realise the Smokefree 2025 goal has signalled a more important role for social marketing. Social marketing can facilitate and reinforce population-level behaviour change introduced by new policies, thus modifying social norms, which also support long-term improvements in health outcomes. In this blog, we consider the role of social marketing in supporting the Smokefree 2025 goal and review strategies the Government could implement.   Social marketing has several important roles. First, it may deter people from unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, by promoting alternative new behaviours; as these become established, they embed new social norms. Second, it may sway opinion by exposing industry practices, such as how tobacco companies deceived and then blamed people who smoke for the harms they experienced; this reframing … Read More