New study on avoidable hospitalisations in New Zealand children

News article

15 August 2019

A just-released study by the geospatial laboratory at the University of Canterbury commissioned by the Ministry of Health shows that wider fluoridation of drinking water, higher vaccination rates, and enrolling with the local GP helps keep kids out of hospital for diseases that could be prevented.

Using existing data from national collections, the detailed analysis of admissions in children up to 12 years old looked at variation around the country and over time, comparing areas where water was fluoridated, the uptake of rotavirus vaccination, and enrolment with primary health care services.

The results confirm that higher rates of water fluoridation, vaccination and access to primary health care can all contribute to keeping kids healthy and out of hospital.

While all population groups benefit, the effect of water fluoridation on admissions for oral health conditions was greatest among children under 5 living in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation.

The introduction of rotavirus vaccination reduced admissions for gastroenteritis, and being enrolled with a GP was protective against being admitted to hospital.

About avoidable hospitalisation

It’s estimated that up to a third of all hospital admissions for children under five could be avoided with good access to quality housing, health services and fluoridated drinking water.

The leading causes are respiratory, gastrointestinal, oral health and skin conditions.

Rates for all conditions, particularly respiratory illnesses, are highest among Māori and Pacific children.

Age, gender, ethnicity and deprivation account for much of the variation in rates around the country.

This study adds information that a wider range of factors affect hospitalisation rates in children, including water fluoridation over time and by district, access to health services (both hospital and community-based) and the introduction of rotavirus vaccination in 2014.

The report detailing the research findings can be found on the University of Canterbury website.

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