Public Health Expert

Is Euthanasia a health priority for New Zealand at present? - Public Health Expert

Sep 09, 2020

Dr Ben Gray* This blog discusses what will be needed to operationalise the End of Life Choice Act in the event that it is approved at referendum. It argues that this will take significant resources. Judging by the experience in Oregon it is likely that this may only benefit a small number of older educated white people. The health system is currently significantly stretched by the extra demands and changes required because of Covid-19. There is also an urgent need to implement some of the findings of the Simpson review on health system reform. Arguably more suffering would be relieved if the resource required to implement a system for assisted dying were put into palliative care funding.   At the next election voters will be asked to answer the referendum question “Do you support the End of Life Choice … Read More

Tax policy as a key health determinant: Reform for the Covid-19 reset - Public Health Expert

Sep 07, 2020

Louise Delany,* Assoc Prof George Thomson Tax provides revenue for the collective societal services that are critical for the prevention and management of Covid-19. Tax is the way we all share our resources in contributing to a healthy, decent and just society. Tax reform options should be included in pre-election party proposals. More importantly, we need to continue to talk about tax reform.   Our tax system has glaring holes. It relies too much on taxing wages and on GST. New Zealand income tax rates have become less progressive than they were in the 1980s.1 As a flat tax, GST takes a bigger chunk out of the incomes of the poor and thus does nothing to reduce inequalities. Covid-19 has emphasised the gravity of these issues. Those with fewer resources are the most adversely affected by Covid-19, for reasons ranging … Read More

Upgrade of NZ’s COVID-19 Alert Levels Needed to Help Regain NZ’s Elimination Status - Public Health Expert

Sep 03, 2020

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker In this blog we comment on the current COVID-19 situation globally and in NZ. We focus on potential revisions to NZ’s Alert Level system that involve improved use of mass masking, targeted internal travel restrictions, and gathering/event limits. These interventions could all help accelerate rapid progress back to elimination status for NZ while minimising disruption of economic activity and education.   The global situation It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic virus is highly infectious and is causing major health and economic damage in most countries around the world. Nevertheless, a number of jurisdictions appear to have eliminated community transmission of the virus (eg, China, Taiwan, Fiji and 5 Australian States/Territories – including the island of Tasmania). Other jurisdictions appear to be getting recent outbreaks under control and might … Read More

Children and young people and COVID-19: The urgent need for improved guidance in NZ - Public Health Expert

Aug 27, 2020

Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Amanda D’Souza, Prof Michael Baker In this blog we consider the ‘Auckland August cluster’ in the light of the changing landscape of international evidence about COVID-19 risk for children and young people. The high proportion of Pasifika children and young people in the Auckland outbreak may be a preview of what an uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic would look like in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is an urgent need to improve coordination of child-centred policy in the COVID-19 response with better Māori and Pasifika representation in decision-making at all levels. Immediate actions include mandating mask use for secondary-age children at Alert Levels 2 and 3 and encouraging primary-age children to make and use masks.   The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a new pathogen, requiring pandemic response strategies to be built on evidence that has uncertain … Read More

NZ’s COVID-19 response compared to selected other jurisdictions: Australia, Taiwan and the United States - Public Health Expert

Aug 26, 2020

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Andy Anglemyer, Prof Tony Blakely, Prof Michael Baker Media discourse in NZ has involved comparing NZ’s COVID-19 response with a range of other jurisdictions, especially: Australia, Taiwan and the US. In this blog we update the data comparisons for these selected places. We find that Taiwan is the top performer with a cumulative death rate that is around 1800 times lower than the US’s (for NZ the difference with the US is 136 times lower). Taiwan’s high quality performance still holds a number of lessons for NZ with its ongoing response. Previously we have reported on OECD country data with NZ having the lowest mortality rate from COVID-19 in this grouping [1]. But over the last six months we have observed that media discourse in NZ has particularly involved comparing NZ’s COVID-19 … Read More

Using a fun “Mask Day” at school to promote pandemic protection in the NZ community - Public Health Expert

Aug 25, 2020

Dr Ling Chan, Dr Sophie Febery, Prof Michael Baker, Dr Amanda Klasvig, Prof Nick Wilson Whilst the New Zealand Government has recently recommended using face coverings or fabric masks as a strategy to contain COVID-19 pandemic virus transmission, the uptake of mask use in the public has been suboptimal. In this blog, we explore using “Mask Day” at school to promote positive public messages on masks, which may lead to increased public engagement of mask use within the wider community. Aotearoa New Zealand is currently experiencing a second outbreak of COVID-19, necessitating Alert Level 3 restrictions in Auckland and Alert Level 2 within the rest of the country. Despite the welcome change in the Government’s recent promotion for mass masking [1], mask wearing in public is still not mandatory at this stage (though will become so on public transport, planes … Read More

Using the CovidCard to enhance protection from COVID-19 at the NZ border - Public Health Expert

Aug 24, 2020

Dr Tim Chambers, Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker Border controls are critical in preventing future COVID-19 outbreaks in NZ. In this blog we consider the recent announcements and cross-party support for the CovidCard’s use by border control workers and guests in quarantine and isolation facilities. We discuss how this is a promising move that should facilitate further improvements in border control protocols and efficient digital contact tracing. The border is NZ’s greatest vulnerability in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. Recent reporting of low levels of COVID-19 testing of border facing staff in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities have highlighted a systems failure. Likewise, a number of high profile break-outs and reports of guest interactions at different stages of their isolation cycles (eg, a person on day 3 interacting and potentially infecting a person on day … Read More

Reducing the health burden from contaminated drinking water in NZ: Opportunities arising from the new Water Services Bill - Public Health Expert

Aug 10, 2020

Dr Tim Chambers, Prof Nick Wilson, Jayne Richards, A/Prof Simon Hales, Dr Mike Joy, Prof Michael Baker (author affiliations*) Increasing water-related health threats, notably the waterborne campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North, have highlighted failings in NZ’s regulatory system for drinking water. In this blog we consider how the new Water Services Bill might provide a framework to enable the new water regulator, Taumata Arowai, to oversee, administer and enforce new drinking water regulations. We also detail how addressing the upstream determinants of water-related disease burden is a far better approach than treating water that has already become contaminated. The COVID-19 experience also raises the benefits of consolidating NZ’s public health organisations into a single highly competent national public health agency, which may have implications for reform of drinking water safety.   Introduction Havelock North’s water-related disease outbreak brought to light … Read More

E-bikes are the new cars- why don’t transport policy makers treat them seriously? - Public Health Expert

Aug 04, 2020

Caroline Shaw, Anja Mizdrak E-bikes are everywhere. Sales are booming and predicted to overtake sales of new cars in a few years. There were three times as many e-bikes and e-scooters imported into NZ in 2019 alone as there are e-cars in the entire country. You can’t go out in the city these days without seeing people having fun zipping past on their e-bikes. E-bikes have the potential to transform our cities into more enjoyable and liveable places. Unfortunately, we are not seeing an effort from policy makers to encourage this low carbon, healthy form of transport. Research on of e-bikes has been growing as rapidly as their sales, so in this blog we outline what we know about the carbon and health impacts of e-bikes. Then we look at policy in this area, what could be achieved, … Read More

NZ’s “Team of 5 million” has achieved the lowest COVID-19 death rate in the OECD – but there are still gaps in our pandemic response - Public Health Expert

Jul 22, 2020

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Tim Chambers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Dr Anja Mizdrak, Dr Nhung Nghiem, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker NZ has now achieved the lowest death rate from the COVID-19 pandemic out of 37 OECD countries and appears to be the only one to succeed with elimination at a national level. But despite the success of the “team of 5 million” – there are still a number of gaps in our defences. In particular, there is a need to upgrade: (i) border controls; (ii) the Alert Level system; (iii) the use of digital technologies to support contact tracing; (iv) testing & surveillance for early outbreak detection; (v) the kinds of policies, institutions and laws needed to sustain our world-class response.   The OECD comprises a grouping of 37 relatively wealthy countries and so is frequently the basis for … Read More