‘Stocktake’ estimates burden of disease in NZ

A new report from the Ministry of Health, “Health Loss in New Zealand” calculates the estimated Burden of Disease — an estimate of how much healthy life is lost due to premature death, illness or impairment — in New Zealand.

hopsital-bedThe findings show that, according the most recent data from 2006, cancers (17.5%) and vascular and blood disorders (17.5%) were the leading causes of health loss at the condition level, followed by mental disorders (11%), musculoskeletal disorders (9%) and injury (8%).

Total loss of healthy life (measured in Disability Adjusted Life Years), is expected to increase by 13.4% from 2006 to 2016, largely due to demographic changes.

You can read more highlights and the full report here.

“New Zealanders are living longer, yet this study shows that not all of those extra years are being lived in good health,” said Chief Medical Officer, Dr Don Mackie in a media release.

“As the population ages, it will become increasingly important to add ‘life to years’ as well as ‘years to life'”

Professors Tony Blakely and Nick Wilson, from University of Otago, Wellington, have written about the report on the Public Health Expert blog.

An excerpt (read in full here):

“The Ministry of Health has just released a major new burden of disease study for 2006, a culmination of a large epidemiological stocktake for New Zealand.

“The study highlights changes in New Zealand, e.g. diet is emerging as the major modifiable risk factor with respect to disease burden.  It also raises questions as to how useful a burden of disease study is for prioritisation of public health activity.[…]

“The main metric used is disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), a composite measure of mortality and morbidity that measures how far we fall short of ‘ideal’ health.  Comparisons can then be made between types of people, diseases and over time.

“Key findings include:

  • Cancers and cardiovascular disease each contribute 17.5% of the total burden, followed by mental disorders (11%), musculoskeletal disorders (9%) and injury (8%).
  • Males have a 13% higher DALY rate than females – but it differs for fatal conditions (much higher for males) and morbidity (higher for females).
  • Maori have about a 75% higher DALY rate than non-Maori.

[…] “A particularly useful part of the current Ministry study are calculations of how much of the DALY burden is due to different risk factors.  This gives us information about how much health gain we might achieve though ‘ideal and complete’ action on modifiable risk factors.

“Not surprisingly, tobacco smoking stands out.  9.1% of all DALYs could be averted if nobody had ever smoked.  Getting rid of tobacco out of New Zealand (as per the Government’s smokefree nation goal by 2025) remains an overwhelming policy priority if we are aiming to improve the overall health, and reduce inequalities in health, of New Zealanders.

“Interestingly, dietary risk factors combined (high salt intake, high saturated fat intake, low vegetable and fruit intake, and excess energy intake) accounted for 11.4% of DALYs in 2006 – more than tobacco.  And overweight and obesity has probably now (i.e. 2013) overtaken tobacco in its contribuiton to disease burden according to projections in the Ministry study.  Improving the nutritional environment of New Zealanders should therefore be a high priority for the Government.”

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