Māori experience low levels of health status across a range of health and socio-economic statistics. They comprise 34.9 percent of Northland’s total population, but 54 percent of the child and youth population, a key group for achieving long-term gains. Māori experience early onset of long-term conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, presenting to hospital services on average about 13 years younger than non-Māori.
Child and Youth
The child and youth proportion of Northland’s population is projected to decline over the coming years from 32.5 percent in 2017 to 30.6 percent in 2027, but remains a priority because healthy children make for healthy adults and because children are more vulnerable than adults. The deprivation index, which divides New Zealanders into ten groups according to their deprivation scores, placed 80 percent of the population 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 and community support services, day care). It also increases the prevalence of long-term conditions which become more common with age.
Long Term Conditions
About three-quarters of deaths in Northland are from cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) or cancer (the most common sites are trachea-bronchus-lung, colorectal, prostate and breast). Twenty percent of adult Northlanders have been told they have high blood pressure and 12 percent 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. A great deal of unnecessary illness and hospitalisation is related to poor management of diabetes.
Northland’s five-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 (45 percent compared with the national 41 percent). Data for adolescent oral health is limited, but it suggests a similar, if not worse, picture.
The way people live their lives and the behaviours they exhibit have an enormous effect on health status. There are a wide range of influences, but key ones are smoking, diet, alcohol and other drugs, and lack of physical activity.
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 as a district health board we work collaboratively with other Government and local body organisations to achieve a healthier Northland.