About surveys

Why does the Ministry of Health run population surveys?

Internationally, it is standard practice to have a population health survey programme.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that every country has a basic survey programme that monitors trends in risk factors and non-communicable disease. Surveys provide a means of gathering necessary information for decision-making by the Ministry of Health and DHBs that is not available elsewhere.

What is the New Zealand Health Monitor?

The broad aim of the New Zealand Health Monitor (NZHM) is to provide relevant, reliable and timely information (that cannot be collected more efficiently through other means) for the health sector in order to:

  • develop and evaluate evidence-informed policies and strategies
  • plan and allocate resources to services (or programmes)
  • manage the sector strategically.

The specific objectives of the NZHM are to routinely and regularly collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to two central questions:

  • How healthy are we?
  • How healthy is the health system?

The NZHM recognises that Maori have a special status as the indigenous people of New Zealand, and that the Crown has specific obligations toward Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi. The NZHM therefore aims to produce estimates with the same precision for Maori as for non-Maori (equal explanatory power).

The New Zealand Health Monitor survey programme is part of the Programme of Official Social Statistics overseen by Statistics New Zealand.

In the past, the NZHM survey programme consisted of an integrated series of population surveys, as follows:

The Ministry of Health also sometimes runs other surveys for specific purposes. These surveys have included:

From April 2011 the New Zealand Health Survey, and the various surveys that are part of the wider survey programme have been integrated into a single survey, which will be in continuous operation.

The rationale for moving to an integrated continuous survey is to make more effective use of available resources and improve the monitoring of the health of the New Zealand population and associated health inequalities. In particular the new approach allows for greater flexibility of content and more frequent updating of information. The ability to add survey questions on a range of topics of emerging policy interest, and to monitor outcomes before and after any period, will enhance the survey’s contribution to the evidence base for health policy.

The New Zealand Health Survey: Objectives and topic areas paper contains more information about the purpose and content of the health survey.

What is the New Zealand Health Survey?

The New Zealand Health Survey is an important data collection tool for monitoring the health of the population. The information collected is an important source of supporting evidence for health and health service policy and strategy development.

The survey comprises a set of core questions combined with a flexible programme of rotating topic areas/modules, for instance, the first module is on health service utilisation. The survey questionnaire is administered face-to-face to one adult and one child (if any) in each selected household. A parent or legal guardian is invited to complete the survey on behalf of children under the age of 15 years.

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