Public Health Expert

Professor Tony Blakely is an epidemiologist at the University of Otago, Wellington. He has an extensive portfolio of research. Tony initiated and implemented the New Zealand Census-Mortality Study (NZCMS) in the late 1990s, a pioneering study linking the national censuses with mortality data to allow monitoring and research on ethnic and socio-economic inequalities and the contribution of smoking to mortality (the NZ census periodically includes smoking). He has also led the parallel study, CancerTrends, that links census and cancer registration data to allow cancer incidence and survival studies.

Not forgetting the benefits to youth and non-smokers – an example from increases in tobacco taxes - Public Health Expert

Sep 09, 2019

Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Richard Edwards, Prof Janet Hoek Tobacco control’s focus on supporting smokers to quit, thus reducing the harm they face (e.g., via appropriately regulated access to e-cigarettes) remains important. However, we need to do more to protect youth and non-smokers from the burden of tobacco. In this blog we use the issue of tobacco tax increases to show the potentially large benefits to youth and non-smokers – as well as to smokers who quit. Policy-makers need to take a broad view of how tobacco control policies impact on society so that progress to the country’s Smokefree 2025 goal is accelerated. Introduction Debates about which interventions and policies to implement to reduce smoking prevalence often focus on the potential impacts (positive or negative) on smokers. This is understandable as it is smokers who suffer most immediately from … Read More

Meat, Health, Hospitals, and Sustainability - Public Health Expert

Aug 26, 2019

Prof John Potter Achieving healthier diets that are also sustainable is increasingly in the news. In this blog, I look at the case for reducing the amount of meat in hospital meals and gently remind our dietitian colleagues not to let their dietary advice get out of date. Over-consumption of meat is costing us. Our health, our healthcare system, and our environment are all in a state of crisis. This was summarised in the recent Ministry of Health report Sustainability and the health sector [1], championed by Associate Health Minister, the Hon Julie Anne Genter. It was good to hear Dietitians NZ, in their response, emphasising the value of prevention, particularly with an eye to reducing admissions to hospital. However, their reaction to the Minister’s specific recommendation that the health system should reduce meat and dairy consumption was concerning. They … Read More

What can we learn from Healthy Housing Initiatives? New evidence from the Wellington Well Homes scheme - Public Health Expert

Jul 17, 2019

Elinor Chisholm, Nevil Pierse, Cheryl Davies, Philippa Howden-Chapman We know that poor housing conditions result in ill health for many New Zealanders, and we know which interventions are required to ensure good quality housing that supports health. Healthy Housing Initiatives intervene to improve the homes of kids who are hospitalised for illnesses that could be related to poor housing conditions. In this blog post, we draw on recently published research to gain insights about housing and health, and explore views about the effectiveness of these Ministry of Health-funded programmes. There is overwhelming evidence that living in poor quality housing is devastating to health and that improving housing conditions can promote good health.  New Zealand research has shown how low indoor temperatures and mould impair children’s lung function (1,2), that almost 28,000 hospitalisations per year are for diseases potentially … Read More

How should we manage the harm caused by tobacco product waste? - Public Health Expert

Jun 14, 2019

Professor Janet Hoek and Emeritus Professor Philip Gendall Annual consumption of cigarettes now exceeds five trillion, with around four trillion butts littered every year. These cigarette butts cause major environmental damage and impose significant clean-up costs on local authorities. Although tobacco companies have framed smokers as responsible for butt litter, recent debate has focused on the tobacco industry’s role in creating tobacco product waste (TPW) and its responsibility for managing this problem.  We recently examined public perceptions of TPW in New Zealand and allocation of responsibility for creating and managing it. Cigarette filters were first introduced in the 1950s and 60s, in response to growing evidence that smoking caused lung cancer and other serious (and often fatal) illnesses. Advertising at the time declared filtered cigarettes were “Better for your health” and sought to reassure smokers that switching to a … Read More

Lessons from Canada for NZ: Carbon, Cycling, Tobacco, Nutrition and Cannabis - Public Health Expert

Apr 08, 2019

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Amanda Jones, A/Prof George Thomson Canada has a number of progressive public policies which can influence health. In this blog we briefly look at 6 potential lessons for NZ in the domains of: (i) responding to climate change; (ii) supporting cycling; (iii) tobacco control; (iv) controls on food marketing directed at children; (v) healthy food guidelines; and (vi) cannabis law reform. Canada is a high-income country that has some cultural, legal and organisational similarities to New Zealand (NZ). Canada’s current government is also relatively progressive on various health and social issues. For these reasons, the Canadian policy experience may be relevant to NZ and be worth studying. Here we look at six stand-out areas of potential public health significance for NZ. 1) Response to climate change There is international survey data to suggest … Read More

Limiting the size of single serve sugary drinks: New NZ study on health and cost impacts - Public Health Expert

Apr 01, 2019

Dr Cristina Cleghorn, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Helen Eyles There is a lot of focus on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) internationally, due to their role in tooth decay, obesity and diabetes [1-3], their lack of beneficial nutrients, and potential acceptability as an intervention target [4]. Our just-published study has shown that an intervention to reduce the size of all single-serve SSBs would probably be cost-effective in NZ [5]. In this post we elaborate on the issues and consider this intervention in the context of other interventions for addressing NZ’s obesogenic environment.     In our just-published study we modelled the effect of limiting the serving size to 250 mls (one cup) for all instances of single serve (<600 mls) SSBs in the NZ Adult National Nutrition Survey intake data (2008/09). The purpose of this modelling was to estimate … Read More

Lime E-Scooters – Avoiding a collision course with public health? - Public Health Expert

Feb 11, 2019

Prof Janet Hoek, Assoc Prof George Thomson, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Caroline Shaw Currently introduced in four New Zealand cities, Lime electric scooters (e-scooters) have elicited varied responses. Proponents argue they will help reduce traffic density, thus bringing health and environmental benefits, while critics suggest they risk unacceptable overall harm to pedestrians, users themselves, and to taxpayers, who fund treatments for injuries. In this blog, we consider the public health implications of Lime e-scooters, review how policy makers could maximise the potentially desirable outcomes offered by e-scooters while minimising the harms they pose, and consider wider questions regarding allocation of urban space. The ‘shared economy’, where consumers make private assets, such as rooms or transport, available to others has grown rapidly with enterprises such as AirBnB and Uber now estimated to be multi-billion dollar companies. Companies, … Read More

What does the EY Tobacco Excise Tax Evaluation Report mean for reaching the Smokefree 2025 Goal? - Public Health Expert

Jan 24, 2019

Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek, Anaru Waa – ASPIRE 2025 and University of Otago This blog comments on the Ernst and Young (EY) report to the Ministry of Health, which evaluated tobacco excise tax increases as a strategy for achieving the Government’s Smokefree 2025 goal [1]. The report’s recommendations, including continuing annual tax excise increases (conditional on positive impacts demonstrated in enhanced monitoring) and implementing comprehensive and multi-faceted complementary measures, are highly consistent with those made in the NZ tobacco control sector’s Achieving Smokefree Aotearoa Plan (ASAP) launched a year previously [2]. The report strengthens the overwhelming case for implementing a Government-led, comprehensive strategy to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal equitably for all peoples in Aotearoa. When the Labour/New Zealand (NZ) First/Green Government formed in October 2017, there were high hopes that the new Government would place … Read More

Artificially sweetened beverages: What does the latest evidence tell us on health benefits versus harm? - Public Health Expert

Nov 29, 2018

Dr Cristina Cleghorn, Dr Amanda Jones, Dr Andrea Teng, Professor Tony Blakely, Professor Nick Wilson Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is an important current policy issue internationally. One suggested strategy is for people to swap to artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs). But there are multiple concerns about potential health risks of ASBs – although limited evidence and hard data. This blog seeks to briefly summarise current evidence, to inform the public, public health practitioners and policy makers. In NZ there are numerous artificial sweeteners approved for use in beverages, including aspartame (brand names NutraSweet, Equal), cyclamate (Sucrayl, Assugrin, Sugar Twin), neotame (NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet), Stevia, and Sucralose (Splenda, Sugar Free Natura). An artificial sweetener replicates the sensory properties of sugar (ie, it tastes like sugar). However, because artificial sweeteners are significantly sweeter than sugar, they … Read More

100 years ago today a Death Ship from NZ Arrived in Samoa: A Reminder of NZ’s Responsibilities to its South Pacific Neighbours - Public Health Expert

Nov 07, 2018

Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Michael Baker, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Matt Boyd, Dr Ramona Tiatia Today is the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Talune in Western Samoa. This single ship spread the influenza pandemic from NZ to Western Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. Thanks to the Rt Hon Helen Clark, there has been an official apology to Samoa for NZ’s negligent role in this disaster. In this blog, we reflect on this event and consider NZ’s current responsibilities in helping its Pacific neighbours with infectious disease surveillance and pandemic control. A recent review of the 1918 influenza pandemic in the Pacific region [1], reported that: “In November 1918, the tramp steamer SS Talune, out of the port of Auckland, was responsible for another maritime spread of influenza. During a single voyage, the ship inadvertently introduced pandemic influenza … Read More