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.

BODE3 Interactive League Table – how to use it - Public Health Expert

Aug 23, 2017

Prof Tony Blakely, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Giorgi Kvizhinadze, Dr Linda Cobiac Last week we introduced the concept of league tables to compare interventions.  This week we provide a brief ‘user guide’ for our just launched BODE3 Interactive League Table.  We walk through how to pull down tables and graphs of health gain (quality-adjusted life-years; QALYs), health system costs and cost effectiveness for 50+ interventions currently in the interactive league table. In our blog last week we introduced the BODE3 Interactive League Table, and focused on how it is important to know what you are comparing – the intervention description, and what it is being compared to.  We argued that policy-making and research prioritisation could be improved with not only stand-alone simulation studies and cost effectiveness analyses of interventions, but also by comparing interventions side-by-side in a league table. Read More

NZ’s Quitline Service is value-for-money: But how does it compare with other tobacco control actions in a league table? - Public Health Expert

Aug 21, 2017

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Nhung Nghiem, Dr Cristina Cleghorn, Dr Frederieke Sanne van der Deen, Prof Tony Blakely We have just published a journal article on the cost-effectiveness of NZ’s Quitline service (including its associated promotion in the mass media). The study found that this intervention package is likely to be an effective means to generate health gain, address health inequalities and save costs for the NZ health system.  But in this blog we also compare the New Zealand Quitline intervention with other tobacco interventions using our just launched BODE3 Interactive League Table, and find that whilst the Quitline is a good thing to do, much more health gain is possible through other tobacco control interventions. In our just published study in the peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Control, we used an established multi-state life-table model (1-3) to explore … Read More

NZ’s Environmental Protection Authority in a muddle over weed killer - Public Health Expert

Aug 16, 2017

Prof Alistair Woodward*, A/Prof Andrea t’Mannetje**, Dr Dave McLean**, Prof Jeroen Douwes**, Prof John D Potter** (*Auckland and **Massey Universities) Last year the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) chose not to accept the assessment of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in “Roundup”) was a “probable carcinogen”. Instead, the EPA commissioned its own report which found that glyphosate is “unlikely to be genotoxic or carcinogenic”, a significant departure from IARC’s conclusion. An investigation by the Green MP Stefan Browning released two weeks ago raises serious questions about the process followed by the EPA. The controversy has been given fresh life by comments made by the Chief Scientist for the Authority, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth. Her attempt to justify what happened gives a muddled account of risk assessment, and misrepresents … Read More

Comparing health interventions in a meaningful way – Introducing the BODE3 Interactive League Table - Public Health Expert

Aug 15, 2017

Prof. Tony Blakely, Prof. Nick Wilson, Dr. Giorgi Kvizhinadze, Dr. Linda Cobiac This blog introduces league tables, and more specifically the NZ-specific BODE3 Interactive League Table, for comparing interventions on health gain, cost and cost-effectiveness – and potentially many other things.  A league table is a useful tool for researchers and policy-makers to get an informed ‘first impression’ of what are the best health interventions to give further consideration to investing in, or disinvesting in. If life and policy were more rational, New Zealand society would do things in the health sector that had the maximum gain in health, and least cost – or which were even cost-saving.  But life is far more complicated than this.  There is a genuine need to balance government intervention with respect for individual autonomy and the benefits of market forces, but there are also problematic … Read More

Nine Things New Zealand Must Do To Tackle The Child Obesity Crisis - Public Health Expert

Jul 25, 2017

Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere, Professor Boyd Swinburn A panel of 71 independent and government experts have undertaken an evaluation of New Zealand Government food environment policies, compared to international best practice.  This is the second such evaluation, the first being in 2014.  In this blog we summarise the findings. There are some areas where New Zealand is at the level of best practice and there are some areas where there is progress compared to 2014. However, there remain major implementation gaps, especially for policies to improve the healthiness of food environments, to catch up with other nations globally in tackling the child obesity crisis. According to a 2017 OCED Report New Zealand is still the third fattest high income country both for children and adults (1), which means no progress since 2014 (2). It is critical that the New Zealand … Read More

Nationwide Colorectal Screening in New Zealand - Public Health Expert

Jul 20, 2017

Dr Melissa McLeod and Professor Tony Blakely Nationwide Colorectal Screening in New Zealand: a tricky balance of improving overall population health and addressing inequalities In this blog we will discuss a paper recently published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention [1] by the BODE3 team, which modelled a nationwide colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programme for New Zealand. We used multiple data sources, ranging from the results of the New Zealand pilot screening programme through Waitemata DHB, New Zealand cost and epidemiological data on colorectal cancer, and outputs of screening trials internationally. Similar to modelling from other countries, we found that a national CRC screening programme is highly likely to be cost-effective, and will offer health gains to all screened population groups. However, because Māori in New Zealand are less likely to get CRC, and because screening programmes have … Read More

Google Street View – A Useful Research Tool? - Public Health Expert

Jul 10, 2017

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Amber Pearson, Amanda Rzotkiewicz, A/Prof George Thomson Looking at Google Street View can be highly amusing. If you’ve ever wandered around a neighbourhood with Street View on Google Maps, you’ll have realised that everyone’s faces are blurred. Google is very concerned with privacy, so they’ve implemented an algorithm that finds out which parts of their photos are faces of human beings, and then blurs them out. To this end, a hapless cow found her face blurred out also (see here). But Stree View can help with research – as we report in a just published review in the journal “Tobacco Control”. In this blog we briefly consider some of the research possibilities of this tool of relevance to public health. Using Google Street View (GSV) for research is becoming increasingly common, as per a recent … Read More

Let’s talk about taxing those sweet, sweet sugary drinks - Unsorted

Jul 05, 2017

How much revenue would a New Zealand sugary drink tax raise? And how might be best to do it? Last week a FIZZ symposium was run in Auckland. A key focus was moving New Zealand towards adopting a sugary drink tax. As part of the policy briefing prepared for this FIZZ Symposium, we were asked to estimate the revenue from such a tax – which we outline here, and estimate to be between $65 and $100 million a year. We also consider implementation options. Many countries or jurisdictions have put in place a sugary drink tax, and from 1 January 2018 the UK will implement a tiered levy based on the sugar content of drinks on the beverage industry (more on this at the end of this blog). For a general background on sugary drink taxes, see previous Public Health … Read More

Only eight more years to go to 2025: Time for the NZ Government to step up its tobacco endgame - Public Health Expert

Jun 29, 2017

By Frederieke Sanne van der Deen, Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Christine Cleghorn, Dr Linda Cobiac, Dr Giorgi Kvizhinadze, Dr Nhung Nghiem, Prof Tony Blakely We have eight more years to go until 2025 – the year of the NZ Government’s Smokefree goal. NZ is not on track to achieve this goal, especially not for Māori. In this blog we discuss the findings of our just published study in Tobacco Control, where we have estimated the future impacts of a range of proposed novel and substantive strategies that may accelerate the reduction in smoking prevalence (ie, ‘tobacco endgame strategies’). We find that some endgame strategies could achieve NZ’s Smokefree goal, deliver large health gains and cost-savings, and could largely reduce the ethnic gap in tobacco-related health inequalities. In 2011, prompted by the Māori Affairs Select Committee, the NZ Government announced a … Read More

New Standardised Packaging Regulations: Some good steps, but many missed opportunities - Public Health Expert

Jun 28, 2017

Professor Janet Hoek and Professor Philip Gendall The NZ Government’s recently released Standardised Packaging Regulations contain some important advances over Australia’s legislation, but they also miss opportunities to recognise tobacco industry innovations. This blog discusses changes that establish a new benchmark and why these are important, but also examines how the regulations could have gone further and suggests measures that other countries might consider including as they develop their standardised packaging policies. Plain (or standardised) packaging has been in place in Australia since late 2012, and early evaluations already show knowledge of how smoking’s harms has increased while the appeal of smoking has declined. Despite desperate attempts by tobacco companies to manufacture an illicit trade problem, the empirical evidence shows this heavily promoted adverse outcome has not eventuated.1 2 Instead, predicted outcomes have emerged even earlier than hoped: … Read More