Public Health Expert

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

The Case for Banning Cigarette Filters: Addressing a Consumer Fraud, Smoking Decoy and Environmental Hazard - Public Health Expert

May 17, 2021

Janet Hoek, Phil Gendall, Tom Novotny, Nick Wilson, Lindsay Robertson, Richard Edwards, James F Thrasher (*Author details) The Government’s proposed Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan sets out a perceptive vision for reducing smoking prevalence and ensuring that, once the goal is reached, future generations will remain smokefree. Among the evidence-based measures set out, the plan includes proposals to “make smoked tobacco products less addictive and less appealing”. In this blog, we examine the Government’s specific proposal to prohibit filters and disallow innovations, additives, and other product changes that sustain the appeal and addictiveness of smoked tobacco products.   How did filters become an integral component of cigarettes? Cigarettes initially had no filters. Historians suggest filters were first introduced to create a barrier between the tobacco in a cigarette stick and a smoker’s mouth (though cigarette holders … Read More

Phasing out smoking: The Tobacco-Free Generation policy - Public Health Expert

May 14, 2021

Jude Ball, Jon Berrick, Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek, Frederieke Petrovic-van der Deen* The NZ Government has published a discussion document outlining an Action Plan for achieving the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal and invited submissions. This blog is one of a series examining key aspects of the plan to help inform the debate and submissions. Here we examine the ‘Tobacco-free generation’ policy (TFG), which provides a mechanism to protect future generations from tobacco harm and, over time, to phase out tobacco sales entirely. What’s the issue here? The Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the obligation of governments to safeguard the health of the population. It’s time to address the smoking pandemic, since ‘cigarettes kill more people each year than AIDS, heroin, crack, cocaine, alcohol, car accidents, fire, and murder combined’. Two key facts about smoking are that: … Read More

SARS-CoV-2: A modern Greek Tragedy? - Public Health Expert

May 13, 2021

By Dr Matt Boyd, Blog Syndicated from Adapt Research Despite a WHO-led investigation, compelling evidence on the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains inconclusive. The WHO investigation concluded in favour of a natural origin, being satisfied that ‘asking whatever questions we wanted’ and obtaining answers to these questions ruled out a laboratory leak. Researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology stated that they do not keep similar viruses to SARS-CoV-2, and they have appropriate safety training (while not divulging actual laboratory records). Skeptics of the natural origin theory, on the other hand, say they wouldn’t trust the outcome of the investigation because it was closely overseen by China’s government. In fact a new report just published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists argues in favour of the lab leak theory citing publicly available records of gain-of-function coronavirus research at the Wuhan … Read More

Australia’s Quarantine Systems Failures: Lessons for NZ - Public Health Expert

May 12, 2021

Dr Leah Grout, Ameera Katar, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Nick Wilson (*Author details) Aotearoa NZ and Australian states have successfully eliminated community transmission of COVID-19, albeit with occasional outbreaks from imported cases. Both countries have primarily used hotel-based quarantine for returning travellers, but still do not have optimal border control. In this blog we consider potential lessons from Australia’s 17 quarantine systems failures for NZ. Overall, NZ and Australia have done very well with their COVID-19 pandemic responses and they are ranked 2nd and 9th in the world, respectively, by the Lowy Institute in Australia.1 The rollout of vaccination programmes, starting with border workers, has been a favourable development in recent months. NZ and Australia have both primarily used hotel-based quarantine for citizens returning to their countries during the pandemic period, with 14 days of quarantine combined with … Read More