Public Health Expert

Hearing loss and social isolation – the silent burden - Public Health Expert

Jul 26, 2021

Feature image: this picture was chosen as it illustrates two elderly people in each other’s company. Tying in with the theme of hearing loss and social isolation, this depicts the importance of connection to each other and the world in which we live. Charlotte Gordon* Untreated hearing loss is a large direct cause of disability and is associated with increased risk of social isolation, depression and anxiety. Māori are at risk of greater unmet needs in hearing health care in Aotearoa New Zealand, which can contribute to greater inequities. This blog argues that significant changes are needed in order to increase access to hearing healthcare and to reduce the risk and consequences of social isolation. As humans, a fundamental part of our being is rooted in connection. That is connection to others and connection to the world in which we … Read More

The alarms are flashing red: Five reasons to upgrade our Alert Level system before the next Covid-positive traveller visits a major city - Public Health Expert

Jul 14, 2021

Amanda Kvalsvig, Nick Wilson, Cheryl Davies, Carmen Timu-Parata, Virginia Signal, Michael G. Baker Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ’s) Alert Level system worked well in 2020, but the Covid-19 landscape is changing and the system needs to change with it to keep NZ ahead of the pandemic.  In this blog we summarise our just-published recommendations for strengthening the Alert Level system and describe the benefits of an upgraded system: to better protect us from outbreaks, avoid lockdowns, help us transition to a post-vaccination future, support prevention of other respiratory disease epidemics, and uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi. On 19-21 June 2021 NZ experienced a critical incident in which a traveller with Delta-variant Covid-19 infection visited numerous crowded indoor venues in Wellington. The visitor only transmitted the infection to their partner who was travelling with them, and NZ was spared what might have … Read More

What’s the right Covid-19 risk to live with – an Australian perspective - Public Health Expert

Jul 14, 2021

Blog syndicated with permission from “The Pursuit” at Melbourne University, Australia By Professor Tony Blakely, Dr Tim Wilson and Associate Professor Vijaya Sundararajan, University of Melbourne As Australia looks toward opening its international borders, new virus modelling provides scenarios that can help us decide what’s the right risk to tolerate. As Australia inches up its vaccine rollout, the question of when the country can open up has become more pressing. Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Federal Government’s four-phase plan. Phase 1 involves vaccinating, preparing and piloting opening up, before moving onto Phase 2’s post-vaccination plans, through Phase 3 and onto Phase 4 when life becomes relatively normal. It’s the transition to Phase 2 that’s critical – as it’s supposedly underpinned by a vaccination coverage threshold which means Australia can open up its borders to … Read More

The changing COVID-19 situation in Taiwan – what can NZ learn from Taiwan’s latest outbreak? - Public Health Expert

Jul 13, 2021

Jennifer Summers, Leah Grout, Michael Baker, Amanda Kvalsvig, Nick Wilson* (author details*) We previously published an assessment of Taiwan’s extremely effective response to COVID-19 during 2020. However, a recent surge of community cases in northern Taiwan from April 2021 onwards has resulted in an increasing mortality rate, with large scale restrictions imposed to bring the outbreak under control.  This COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan serves as a reminder to other jurisdictions, including NZ, of the threat posed by COVID-19 and its more infectious variants. We therefore recommend a range of short-term and long-term upgrades to NZ’s pandemic defences that we believe the Government needs to consider. Taiwan learned from its experiences with SARS in 2003 and developed a comprehensive pandemic plan designed to be adapted to future emerging communicable diseases. Part of this pandemic plan involved building up the infrastructure and … Read More

“Nudging” to improve QR scanning and mask wearing to protect us all during a pandemic - Public Health Expert

Jul 12, 2021

Janet Hoek, Philip Gendall, Nick Wilson (author details*) A feature of Aotearoa New Zealand’s COVID-19 elimination strategy is the rapid identification and then management of any COVID-19 cases arising from border system failures. Within the community, high QR code scanning rates enable rapid identification of contacts while wearing masks in indoor public settings, such as on public transport, reduces the risk of virus transmission. Yet scanning and mask wearing rates are variable, rising in response to immediate threats and falling off when those threats appear to diminish. While probably desirable to mandate these behaviours in high risk settings at raised Alert Levels, this blog considers the supplementary role for social marketing and environmental strategies that could “nudge” people towards these protective behaviours. The re-emergence of COVID-19 in several Australian states and territories, and the recent threat of community transmission in … Read More

The Smokefree 2025 Action Plan: key findings from the ITC New Zealand (EASE) project - Public Health Expert

Jul 05, 2021

Richard Edwards, Ellie Johnson, Janet Hoek, Anaru Waa, El-Shadan Tautolo, Jude Ball, James Stanley Summary This blog summarises findings from people who smoke or have recently quit smoking and who participated in the ITC New Zealand project from 2016-2021. The blog documents attitudes towards smoking and quitting, support for, and perceived impacts of, key measures included in the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan Discussion Document, and data on use of illicit tobacco products. Introduction and methods The NZ Government recently published a Discussion Document setting out a bold and comprehensive action plan for how the Smokefree 2025 goal could be achieved. Key measures proposed in the plan include: greatly reducing the availability of smoked tobacco products by permitting these products to be sold only in a small number of specialised stores or pharmacies; substantially decreasing the addictiveness of tobacco … Read More

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