Public Health Expert

The urgent need for a Covid-19 Action Plan for Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand - Public Health Expert

May 20, 2022

Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Lucy Telfar Barnard, Dr Andrew Dickson, Dr Julie Bennett, Carmen Timu-Parata, Prof Nick Wilson Kvalsvig A, Baker M, Summers J, Telfar Barnard L, Dickson A, Bennett J, Timu-Parata C, Wilson N. The urgent need for a Covid-19 Action Plan for Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand. Public Health Expert Blog. 20 May 2022. At the onset of the Omicron outbreak in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) in early 2022, the Government announced a policy for schools that was essentially a business-as-usual approach, advising that schools would stay open through the outbreak. However, protections to prevent Covid-19 transmission were incomplete and there have been significant adverse consequences for school communities. NZ’s pandemic policy for schools needs to pivot to a whānau-centred approach that takes in-school transmission seriously. As winter arrives, NZ should urgently … Read More

Government funding of interpreters in Primary Care is needed to ensure quality care - Public Health Expert

May 18, 2022

A/Prof Ben Gray* Gray B. Government funding of interpreters in Primary Care is needed to ensure quality care. Public Health Expert Blog.17 May 2022. The pandemic has highlighted many problems in the NZ health system. This blog will address the question of availability of interpreters for people with limited English proficiency (LEP). This is now funded within hospitals. It is funded in Primary Care in Auckland and Nelson but not other regions. It became clear that interpreters were needed to enable Primary Care to look after Covid-19 patients in the community and the Ministry of Health has provided central funding throughout the country for this purpose. If it is acknowledged that funded interpreters are needed for Covid-19 patients, why are they not available for other conditions? Experience in the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of important issues in our … Read More

Covid-19 Case-Fatality Risk & Infection-Fatality Risk – important measures to help guide the pandemic response - Public Health Expert

May 11, 2022

Dr Jennifer Summers, Professor Michael Baker, Professor Nick Wilson* Summers J, Baker M, Wilson N. Covid-19 Case-Fatality Risk & Infection-Fatality Risk: important measures to help guide the pandemic response. Public Health Expert Blog. 11 May 2022. In this blog we explore two useful mortality indicators: Case-Fatality Risk (CFR) and Infection-Fatality Risk (IFR). We estimate the cumulative CFR in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) to be around 0.08%, which is lower than other jurisdictions who have used elimination approaches in the past, such as Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The cumulative number of Covid-19 infections in NZ is not known, but if we assume it is ~50%, the IFR would sit at ~0.03%. We recommend that the NZ Government improve Covid-19 surveillance in order to improve estimates of CFR, IFR and other key indicators to help guide future decisions around control … Read More

Sustained Resilience: the impact of nuclear war on New Zealand and how to mitigate catastrophe - Public Health Expert

Apr 13, 2022

Dr Matt Boyd & Prof Nick Wilson* (Syndicated from the Adapt Research Blog) Efforts to prevent nuclear war should be greatly intensified – but we must also consider what happens if prevention fails. NZ is often cited as somewhere most likely to preserve a thriving society through a nuclear aftermath. However, our society is a complex adaptive system heavily dependent on trade. Major perturbations triggered by nuclear war could shift the state of NZ society from one of flourishing to one of mere survival. We detail these risks of societal failure and conclude with a set of first steps NZ could take to strengthen its societal systems. “I had a dream, which was not all a dream. / The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars / Did wander darkling in the eternal space” (Byron ‘Darkness’) Byron penned what could … Read More

The Omicron waves – Comparing Aotearoa NZ and Australia in four key graphs - Public Health Expert

Apr 12, 2022

Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Nick Wilson* Summers J, Baker M, Wilson N. The Omicron waves – Comparing Aotearoa NZ and Australia in four key graphs. Public Health Expert Blog. 12 April 2022. In this blog we explore the first Covid-19 Omicron variant waves in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ). We find that Australia’s first Omicron wave resulted in higher hospitalisation and ICU occupancy compared to NZ. However, when examining the Auckland region compared with the rest of NZ, Auckland’s experience of the first Omicron wave is more severe, with a higher hospitalisation rate. We recommend that the NZ Government does more to prepare for a possible second Omicron wave (as in Australia) and for future variants of concern. Priority areas are increasing vaccination coverage and improving mask use and indoor ventilation.   At the same time … Read More

Junk food and sugar-sweetened beverage taxes: Likely to produce numerous benefits in NZ - Unsorted

Apr 11, 2022

Dr Leah Grout, Dr Nhung Nghiem, Dr Christine Cleghorn* Poor diet is a major risk factor for excess weight gain and obesity-related diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, and multiple cancers. In this blog we summarise our recent modelling work that suggests that the implementation of taxes on unhealthy foods and beverages in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) will lead to health gains, health system cost-savings, and reductions in health inequalities. Introduction Poor diet (containing energy-dense foods with high levels of sugar and fat) is an important driver of the global obesity epidemic.[1-4] Moreover, both poor diet and obesity are major risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders (eg, osteoarthritis), and certain forms of cancer (eg, endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon).[1, 3, 5, 6] The global food … Read More

Smoking denormalization and tobacco endgames - Public Health Expert

Mar 24, 2022

Janet Hoek, Richard Edwards, Andrew Waa* Once a common practice, smoking prevalence has declined since its peak in the 1960s, after the serious health risks it poses became clear. Government policies and social marketing campaigns have progressively reduced smoking’s acceptability; however, slow reductions in prevalence have seen inequities persist and led some governments to adopt tobacco endgame strategies that rapidly reduce smoking prevalence by a specific date. Achieving endgame goals will bring profound health benefits but face opposition. Tobacco companies have simultaneously opposed core endgame measures, attempted to metamorphose into public health allies, and tried to shape social norms by framing smoking is a personal choice. In this blog, we expand on research exploring smoking’s trajectory and declining social acceptability, and consider challenges that tobacco endgame strategists will need to address. Social norms govern many aspects of our everyday lives … Read More

Long COVID: a crucial reason for vax, mask, and distance - Public Health Expert

Mar 22, 2022

Prof John D. Potter* Long COVID occurs in at least 20-30% of individuals who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and is strongly related to the severity of the initial illness. There are insufficient data to provide a trajectory or a timeline for duration and resolution. The downstream damage can affect: brain, heart, lungs, pancreatic beta cells (resulting in diabetes), muscles, the immune system, eyes, kidneys, and erectile tissue. There is, to date, quite consistent evidence that vaccination is wholly or partly protective against long COVID, whether vaccination occurs before or after COVID-19. A society wanting to minimise the health and cost burden of managing long COVID would therefore choose to maximise vaccination coverage as well as minimise risk of infection with standard public health and social measures.   Introduction In the earlier PHE blogs1,2 on long COVID – now increasingly … Read More

Covid-19 Hospitalisations Now Peaking in Aotearoa NZ – But Key Covid-19 Control Measures Still Need to be Maintained - Public Health Expert

Mar 21, 2022

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker* In this blog we present hospitalisation data for Covid-19 suggesting that the numbers are now peaking across the country. To date, the peak burden of hospitalisations and ICU admissions in NZ has been lower than the peaks in Australia. Although various Covid-19 control measures are being de-escalated, we detail reasons why some controls need to be retained and even strengthened, and which we consider are most important to minimise harm to health and avoid burdening the health system.   Hospitalisation trends The peak burden in hospitalisations is an important data point in the Omicron epidemic as it is a more valid indicator of the epidemic peak than are daily case numbers. This is because case numbers massively under-represent true infections in the community since some people have no symptoms, some have … Read More

Establishing Long COVID services in Aotearoa NZ – what can we learn from overseas? - Public Health Expert

Mar 21, 2022

Robyn Whittaker, Rosie Dobson, Felicity Oh, Sharon Russell, Karen Carter, Penny Andrew* Long COVID (LC) is becoming a substantial issue internationally and many countries are establishing dedicated health services to support people with the condition. In this blog, we discuss what LC services look like overseas and identify key components and considerations for the development of high quality and culturally appropriate LC services in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ). The need to establish Long COVID services Long COVID (described in an earlier blog), is defined as highly variable symptoms in individuals with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 and lasting for at least two months.1 The most common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, cough, shortness of breath, anosmia (loss of the sense of smell), sore throat, chest pain and cognitive dysfunction (“brain fog”), and a general … Read More