The health and wellbeing of New Zealanders is regularly captured by the New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS). Essentially a data collection tool, the survey is used by the Ministry of Health to monitor population health and to provide evidence to support health policy and strategy development. Once taken every three or four years, the NZHS became an annual survey in 2011 and has been providing continuous data and snapshots of the nation’s health since then. The latest survey was released last month and covers findings from July 2014 to June 2015.
For overseas doctors contemplating a move to New Zealand to take up GP, locum or specialist roles, the survey data can provide valuable insights into factors impacting the health of New Zealanders across gender, age and population groups. Surveys are available in PDF format from the Ministry of Health website here.
Generally, New Zealanders are living longer as well as longer in good health, that is, both life expectations and healthy expectations are increasing. However, while New Zealand compares well internationally, a number of inequities in health outcomes persist. We maintain relatively high rates of coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, bowel cancer and self-harm.
A number of these disparities are evident in the key findings from the NZHS results released in August 2016, some of which are as follows:
Adult and child obesity rates continue to increase, with 1 in 3 adults (31%) and 1 in 9 children (11%) being classified as obese. A further 35% of adults and 22% of children are overweight but not obese. Rates for Māori and Pacific Island populations were higher than the average, with 47% of Māori adults and 66% of Pacific adults classified as obese. Further, adults living in deprived areas were 1.7 times as likely to be obese, with children in deprived areas 5 times more likely to be obese.Adult obesity is associated with a long list of health conditions that may present at GP level, including diabetes, heart disease, several common cancers, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and reproductive abnormalities. Obese children are more likely to be obese in adulthood, with obesity in children is often associated with musculoskeletal problems, asthma and psychological problems.
Compounding this, physical inactivity rates are also increasing, with 14% of adults physically inactive (participating in less than 30 minutes of physical activity in the past week).
The hazardous drinking (alcohol) rate has risen, with the percentage of adults who are hazardous drinkers at 18%. This rate dropped to 15% in 2011/12 but has now returned to 2006/7 levels.
On the good news front our smoking rate is decreasing slowly, falling from 20% in 2006/7 to 17% in 2014/15. The youth age group has seen the biggest drop in smoking rates with those aged between 15-17 years more than halving the 2006/7 rate of 16% to just 6% in 2014/15. Among populations, Māori have the highest smoking rate at 38%. Smoking is also strongly linked to socio-economic deprivation, with 28% of adults living in deprived areas categorised as smokers. These adults are 3.1 times more likely to smoke than adults living in the least deprived areas, after adjusting for age, sex and ethnic differences.
Both Māori and Pacific peoples have poorer health and more unmet need for health care. Māori adults have higher rates for most health risks and conditions than non-Māori adults. Māori children also have comparatively high rates for obesity. Pacific adults have higher rates of risky behaviour and poor health than non-Pacific adults. Pacific adults and children have the highest rates of obesity in the country.
Hopefully, this outline of health statistics provides some insight into New Zealand’s health issues for medical professionals considering employment in New Zealand. If you think that you might be interested in knowing more about working within our health system or wish to discuss employment opportunities, the team at Ochre Recruitment would love to hear from you.