Maori experience low levels of health status across a whole range of health and socioeconomic statistics. They comprise 30% of Northland’s population, but 52% of the child and youth population, a key group for achieving long-term gains. Maori experience early onset of long term conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, presenting to hospital services on average about 15 years younger than non-Maori.
Child and Youth
The child and youth population in Northland is projected to decline over the coming years, but it remains a priority because healthy children make for healthy adults and because children are more vulnerable than adults.
The deprivation index, which scores New Zealanders on a ten point deprivation scale, placed 70% of Northland adults and 85% of Northland children on the most deprived half of the index.
Our ageing population is placing significant demands on health services provided specifically for older people (residential care, home based support services, day care). It also affects the prevalence of long term conditions which become more common with age.
Long Term Conditions
The ‘big 3’ are diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Thirty-six percent of deaths of Northlanders are from cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke). Twenty-two percent of adult Northlanders have been told they have high blood pressure and fourteen percent told that they have high cholesterol, both known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
While diabetes is not a major killer in itself, it is a primary cause of heart disease and a great deal of unnecessary illness and hospitalisations are related to poor management of the condition.
Thirty-nine percent of deaths of Northlanders are from cancer. The four most common sites are; trachea-bronchus-lung, colorectal, prostate and breast.
Northland’s 5-year-olds have repeatedly had the country’s highest average score of damaged (decayed, missing or filled) teeth and one of the lowest percentages of teeth without tooth decay (33% compared with the national 41%). Data for adolescent oral health is scanty, but it suggests a similar, if not worse, picture.
The way people live their lives and the behaviours they exhibit have an enormous influence on health status. There are a wide Range of influences, but key ones are smoking, diet, alcohol and other drugs, and physical activity.
Mental health has been a priority since the publication of the Blueprint for Mental Health Services in NZ in 1998. Since then increasing amounts of resources have been progressively invested nationally to work towards a full range of mental health services.
Many of the causes of ill health rest with social and economic factors such as housing, education and economic prosperity. The health sector cannot affect these directly, but district health boards can work on them collaboratively with other government
and local body organisations.