The Health and Independence Report is the Director-General of Health’s annual report on the state of public health in New Zealand. The 2017 report presents an overview of the health of New Zealanders drawing on a range of sources.
Health status of New Zealanders
Section one presents an overview of New Zealand’s health status. We are living longer, and our health expectancy - how long we live in good health - is increasing too. The rate of premature deaths which could have been avoided with effective access to health care is declining among all groups. However, challenges remain. Life expectancy has increased at a faster rate than the improvements in health expectancy, which means New Zealanders are experiencing more of their lives in poor health. There are also inequities in life expectancy and rates of amenable mortality for Māori and Pacific peoples. These are important ongoing challenges for the health and disability system.
Factors impacting on our health
Section two highlights key factors that influence New Zealanders’ health including the environment, social determinants and health behaviours. Being overweight, having an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, high blood pressure and alcohol and other drug use are among the leading modifiable risk factors in the population. Addressing modifiable risk factors has the potential to reduce approximately a third of health loss in New Zealand.
Health across the life course
Section three highlights the importance of starting well in pregnancy and developing well during childhood and adolescence. Infant mortality rates have improved, more children are starting school without dental cavities, and most young people are in good physical health. However, too many young children are ending up in hospital when this could have potentially been avoided, the rates of mental illness and suicide are high amongst young people, and inequities are present between different groups. This section also looks at the conditions impacting most on New Zealand adults and our ageing population, including the increasing contribution of long-term conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, musculoskeletal conditions, mental illness and diabetes to ill health, disability and premature mortality. Many of these conditions reflect inequities for Māori, Pacific peoples and people living in areas of higher deprivation.
Section four notes that our population is forecast to grow, become more diverse and get older, which will increase the demand for health services. Focusing on prevention and improving how the services work together is vital to population health outcomes. Essential areas of work to this end are increasing access to primary health care, using technology to help make it easier to access services and supporting the health workforce in its important role of improving health outcomes.