Public Health Expert

COVID-19, Christmas, the New Year and Summer Holidays: What the NZ Government and individuals can do to minimise the risks - Public Health Expert

Dec 20, 2021

Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Dr Julie Bennett, Dr Lucy Telfar Barnard, Professor Michael G Baker* As Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) prepares for the upcoming summer holidays and Christmas celebrations, the impact of COVID-19 will surely be felt by all. In this blog we briefly discuss the two major COVID-19 threats that NZ will need to manage between now and the end of January: New Zealand’s domestic Delta variant outbreak and the growing international Omicron variant threat. Both require policy responses from Government and action from all New Zealanders.   The COVID-19 pandemic is again intensifying in Europe, with COVID-19 becoming the leading cause of death, and life expectancy declining in Europe and North America.[1] This worsening situation is being driven by the ongoing Delta variant outbreak and now the new Omicron variant. Combined with the impacts of … Read More

Key findings on smoking and e-cigarette use prevalence and trends in the 2020/21 NZ Health Survey - Public Health Expert

Dec 17, 2021

Richard Edwards, Jude Ball, Janet Hoek, Nick Wilson, Andrew Waa* New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS) data released in early December suggest substantial reductions in smoking prevalence occurred between 2019/20 and 2020/21 among all ethnic groups. This blog describes the key findings, explores the data in more detail, and discusses how these changes may have arisen and their implications, particularly given the Government has now released an innovative Action Plan outlining how it will achieve the Smokefree Aotearoa goal. Introduction In previous years we prepared blogs summarising key points from the 2018/19 and 2019/20 NZ Health Surveys (NZHS), a rolling survey conducted every year since 2011/12. These analyses revealed a steady but unspectacular decrease in smoking prevalence since 2011, continuing a gradual decline going back several decades. Data from 2011/12 to 2019/20 also showed persisting large … Read More

The cost burden of excess weight in New Zealand: Sizing up a new report - Public Health Expert

Dec 14, 2021

Professor Boyd Swinburn* The latest New Zealand Health Survey results show a substantial up-tick in both childhood and adult obesity prevalence after plateauing for a decade. This is of great concern and it makes a new report from the Sapere Research Group on the Economic Impact of Excess Weight in Aotearoa all the more important. The report was commissioned by Hapai Te Hauora and it is a very welcome update on the two previous studies I was involved with using data from 1991 and 2006. Over these last three decades, obesity prevalence has increased substantially, as have health care costs and population size, so it is very valuable to have some up-to-date data on the costs of overweight and obesity. The headline number, before we get into the details, is that the direct healthcare costs attributable … Read More

Current and future generations must flourish: Time for a long-term and global perspective on pandemic and other catastrophic risks - Public Health Expert

Dec 02, 2021

Dr Matt Boyd & Prof Nick Wilson* (Syndicated from Adapt Research’s Blog Site) In this blog post we cover the following: The recent United Nations report ‘Our Common Agenda’ which calls for solidarity, concern for future generations, and collaborative action on global risks including pandemics. The newly mandated Long-term Insights Briefings (LTIB) that Aotearoa NZ public sector organisations must prepare and some ideas for what could be included in the Ministry of Health’s LTIB. Overview of our just published research paper calling for a well-resourced NZ Parliamentary Commissioner for Catastrophic Risks to help prioritise action and ensure a safe and flourishing future.     New United Nations (UN) Report: ‘Our Common Agenda’ In September 2021 the UN Secretary General (SG) released a roadmap to a flourishing future, ‘Our Common Agenda’. The report employed the language of long-termism, … Read More

Smokefree cars – an important step towards protecting children from the hazards of smoking - Public Health Expert

Nov 26, 2021

Richard Edwards, Jude Ball, Janet Hoek, George Thomson, Nick Wilson*  On November 28 new legislation to protect children from smoking and vaping in cars will come into force. This blog sets out the background and rationale for the new law, and discusses implementation, evaluation and the next steps to protect children from smoking-related harm in Aotearoa. Secondhand smoke (SHS) is a health hazard for children and causes serious diseases, including life-long respiratory conditions such as asthma. 1 2 Smoking in the confined space of a car exposes children involuntarily to extremely high levels of SHS. 3 4 This evidence helped to trigger calls to introduce smokefree policies to protect children, and internationally, some local and state jurisdictions introduced laws banning smoking in cars when children were present. Some of the first such laws were passed in the State of Arkansas … Read More

Vaping needs much tighter regulation as we approach Smokefree Aotearoa 2025: Two new studies - Public Health Expert

Nov 24, 2021

Nick Wilson, Janet Hoek, Jennifer Summers, Driss Ait Ouakrim, Andrew Waa, Richard Edwards, Tony Blakely* Two recent studies provide new insights into the impact vaping may have on public health. The first estimates that use of modern vaping devices could be around a third as harmful to health as smoking. The second uses these findings to estimate the net health and cost impacts for NZ of vaping devices having become widely available. We draw on these findings to conclude that vaping needs much tighter regulation to maximise benefits and minimise harms. Background Tobacco smoking is a major health problem in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ), with an estimated 4790 attributable deaths in 2019 (95% uncertainty interval [UI]: 4510 to 5100 deaths) [1]. The total health loss in 2019, including non-fatal illness, was estimated at 116,000 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost (95%UI: … Read More

More than 147km – the transformative potential of the Wellington bike network plan - Public Health Expert

Nov 24, 2021

Feature image by Luke Pilkinton-Ching, University of Otago Wellington   Caroline Shaw, Anja Mizdrak, Ryan Gage* Wellington City Council is currently consulting on a cycle network for Wellington. This is a big deal. WCC are proposing a 147km cycle network around the city, the vast majority of which is new. This will mean most suburbs in the city have cycleways that connect to the central city and three quarters of people in the city will be within 5 minutes ride of the network.  Following the approach of some of the most innovative cities in the world, WCC plan to roll out a lot of the network using temporary infrastructure (e.g., planter boxes) in the next 3 years, to be gradually hard engineered into the fabric of the city over the next decade. This means people can start cycling soon … Read More

The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill – a chance to submit on pivotal legislation for health in Aotearoa - Public Health Expert

Nov 09, 2021

Boyd Swinburn and Louise Delany* The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill was introduced into Parliament in October 2021 and a submission process is now underway with a tight 9 December deadline. The Bill introduces major structural changes and will be associated with a suite of new health planning and strategy documents. The aim of this blog is to introduce some key aspects of the Bill and to strongly recommend that the health sector studies the Bill and its implications. We encourage all interested parties to develop submissions for consideration by the Pae Ora Legislation Committee. The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill was introduced into Parliament on 20 October 2021, with a first reading on 27 October. If enacted the Bill will replace the current New Zealand Health and Disability Act 2000 and will result in a major restructuring … Read More

Management of Auckland’s external border with the world and internal boundary with NZ needs major changes to reflect the city’s shift from Covid-19 elimination to suppression - Public Health Expert

Nov 08, 2021

Dr Lucy Telfar Barnard, Dr Jennifer Summers, Lesley Gray, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Nick Wilson* Analysis of countries with reasonable quality data implies that the risk of Covid-19 infection for most vaccinated international arrivals is typically less than the current risk for Auckland residents. Current MIQ requirements for vaccinated arrivals to Auckland could therefore be dropped for most, without increasing the risk for Aucklanders. It would also be consistent to require tight control measures (vaccination, testing, and potentially some home quarantine) for people travelling from Auckland to other parts of NZ to help maintain elimination in those places (to give time for improved vaccination coverage). If you’re at the supermarket in Auckland, would you be at more risk of being infected with the pandemic virus causing Covid-19 by someone fully vaccinated who arrived from overseas this morning, or from an … Read More

Monitoring CO2 indoors for improving ventilation as a Covid-19 control tool - Public Health Expert

Oct 27, 2021

Dr Ian Longley and Dr Julie Bennett* Poor ventilation in indoor settings is widely recognised as a risk factor for the airborne transmission of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes Covid-19. Virus-laden aerosols can remain airborne for hours in indoor spaces with low levels of ventilation. In this blog, we discuss how to use carbon dioxide (CO2) measures as a proxy for estimating the level of ventilation in a building and to guide ventilation improvements in schools and workplaces. Airborne transmission of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) causing Covid-19 has been recognised by the World Health Organization, which states that the virus can spread in “poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings”. This is also the case with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends: “adequate ventilation and avoidance of crowded indoor spaces”. Airborne transmission differs from the traditional view that … Read More