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Researchers find decline in obesity in NZ 4-year-olds

New Zealand’s four-year-olds are resisting the tide towards rising obesity, according to research funded by A Better Start, one of the country’s national science challenges.

By analysing national data from the B4 School Check, a health check conducted each year on the country’s four-year-olds, researchers have found that there has been a 2.2% decline in the number of youngsters who are overweight, obese or extremely obese between 2010 and 2016. The decline is across the board, across gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and urban and rural children.

Lead author Dr Nichola Shackleton of the University of Auckland said, “The research has found a small decline in what has been a rising tide of obesity in our children. While that’s good news for 4-year-olds, we don’t know if this effect continues once they reach school.”

The decline needs to be seen in the context of our rates of childhood obesity which remain among the highest in the world.

The research is a collaboration between the Challenge Healthy Weight and Big Data research teams at Auckland, Otago, Massey universities in New Zealand and Uppsala University in Sweden. Over the six years, the B4 School Check was completed by registered nurses on between 75% and 92% of four-year olds, about 317,000 children.

Reducing childhood obesity, is fundamental to ensuring better health outcomes for children. Obesity is linked to a long list of health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. Obesity contributes to about 9% of all illness, disability and premature death. A Better Start Director Professor Wayne Cutfield said,” This adds to the picture we have on child obesity. It’s a priority research theme for the Challenge because not having a healthy weight is a leading factor preventing children from going on to lead healthy and successful lives.”

Challenge co-director Professor Barry Taylor, the Dean of the Dunedin Medical School at Otago University, said the research showed the power of the Integrated Data Infrastructure, the project to bring publicly gathered data together for research. “By matching the B4 School Check data with Census information, it has been possible to generate community level information that can be shared to lift the health of their neighbourhoods,” he said.

The current main source of data on childhood obesity comes from the National Health Survey, which relies on data from fewer than 5000 children, between 0 and 14 years.

Professor Cutfield said the decline might indicate that health promotion is working on families with young children. For young children, families have easier access to physical activities and better control on what they eat.

This is the first of 11 studies planned for the next two years by the A Better Start Healthy Weight and Big Data teams that will examine important associations between early life events and childhood obesity. These include being born early (preterm), late (post-term), too small (small for gestational age), too large (large for gestational age), increased maternal age, maternal antibiotics in pregnancy and frequent antibiotic exposure in early childhood.

The research is published in the journal Paediatric Obesity.
Fact box:
• A Better Start is one of 11 National Science Challenges representing a strategic investment in science to respond to complex issues facing New Zealand.
• A Better Start has three priority research areas: Healthy Weight, Successful Learning and Resilient Teens, with a cross-Challenge research programme run by Big Data specialists.
• The National Health Survey estimates that 33% of children of between 4 and 5 year olds are overweight or obese. This rises to >40% for Maori, >50% for Pasifika and >40% for children in low socioeconomic areas
• For OECD countries New Zealand ranks 4th out of 34 countries for children between 2 and 19 years who are overweight and obese, immediately behind the United States.
• The OECD country with the biggest child obesity problem is Chile, 31.6% of boys and 37% of girls.
• Improving rates of obesity in New Zealand 4-year-old children is a paper authored by: Nichola Shackleton, Barry Milne, Rick Audas, Jose Derraik, Tong Zhu, Rachael Taylor, Susan Morton, Marewa Glover, Wayne Cutfield and Barry Taylor.

Nelson Marlborough Health – After Hours Health Options

Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) is urging people to choose the most appropriate healthcare option over the holiday season.

The ‘123, where should I be?’ promotional campaign aims to remind people to stop and think about the best healthcare option for their need.

People with non-life threatening, short-term illnesses or health problems should see their GP, pharmacist, urgent care medical centre or phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Patients that are sick but it is not an emergency are encouraged to see their GP in the first instance.

It’s free to register or enrol with a GP, and enrolled patients pay a reduced consultation fee at that practice.

Visitors to a medical centre where they’re not enrolled, will pay less if they have a Community Services Card or High Use Health Card.

All children under 13 are eligible for free general practice visits, both during the day and after-hours.

If people are not able to see their GP they should go to the Urgent Medical and Injury Centre in Nelson or the Urgent Care Centre in Blenheim.

Patients can be referred from these centres for x-rays if required.

Save ED for emergencies

People should only go to a hospital Emergency Department for urgent medical emergencies.

If unsure if it is an emergency call the free, 24 hour telephone health advice service, Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Senior Medical Officer at Nelson Hospital Emergency Department Dr Mark Reeves says over-indulgence, both in drugs and alcohol, often results in an unnecessary presentation at ED.

He encourages everyone to moderate their alcohol intake and says nothing gets better after three standard drinks.

“You’re as funny, as confident, as attractive and as good a musician, singer or dancer as you’re ever going to be at two to three standard drinks,” he says.
Dr Reeves says having more than three standard drinks markedly increases the chance of doing something that results in harming yourself or someone you care about either physically or psychologically.

He also reminds friends or family members not to encourage irresponsible behaviour.

Pharmacists on healthcare team

A community pharmacist is often able to assist with non-urgent injuries or illnesses, such as sprained ankles, sunburn, or hay fever – situations that are uncomfortable but not life-threatening.

A pharmacist can also give advice on the emergency contraception pill, emergency supplies of ongoing prescription medicines and first aid.

What are non-urgent health problems?

Soft tissue injuries, sprained ankles, minor cuts or injuries, coughs and colds or any and minor symptoms that would be better managed by a visit to your GP, urgent medical centre or pharmacy.

For dental concerns, call your local hospital the dentist on call for acute dental needs at the weekend.

After-hours options available for people who require non-urgent medical treatment outside normal business hours can be found at

For urgent medical attention dial 111 for an ambulance.

Enjoy Christmas, but keep up the regular work-out activities

People wanting to be more active in 2018 should, first of all, enjoy the luxuries and pleasures of Christmas through the festive season, one of New Zealand’s leading exercise experts says.

Exercise NZ chief executive Richard Beddie says Kiwis should take a small break over Christmas, but be committed to being more active after New Year’s Eve,

“Enjoy the food but people just need be aware of what they are doing and how much they eat. Plan how to cope over Christmas or at big social gathering situations which may be challenging. When there is free unlimited food practice saying, ‘no thank you’.

“Healthy living isn’t about sacrificing for one day, it’s about making changes for the long term, so people should focus less about how much they eat on Christmas day and more on how well they eat and how active they should be for the two weeks either side of December 25.

“For already active people the challenge can be maintaining the routine; the frequency can drop, but it’s important to keep up regular work outs.

“For those that are not active on a regular basis then holidays and a break from routine can be a great opportunity to form new habits.

“Christmas is approaching fast, and many people not only tend to ruin their usual diets, but they also gain a few extra pounds. Based on studies, most people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season helped by lack of physical activity and exercise.

“Kiwis should still keep up their fitness routine whenever possible and if they can’t do that, simply walk more and at least try some form of activity.

“Come new year, people should set realistic exercise objectives. For those new to activity, if they aim for at least half an hour once or twice a week, they should be very happy to consistently achieve that, and build from there. Finally, drink lots of water. This can appease appetites as well as help with staying hydrated,” Beddie says.

There are an estimated 550,000 Kiwis who work on fitness at gyms and exercise facilities alone. If considered a sport, exercise continues to be the number one sport in New Zealand, having more participants than the rugby, netball and cricket combined.

Consumer NZ Sunscreen Test “Misleading And Dangerous”

A Consumer NZ test of kiwi sunscreen brands is misleading and dangerous, warns a Vitamin D researcher and author, because it ignores an elephant in the room – there’s growing evidence sunscreens don’t actually protect kiwis from melanoma at all.

“This Consumer test of whether sunscreens match their SPF ratings is dangerous,” says Ian Wishart, “because it perpetuates the myth that slapping on a high SPF sunscreen will stop you developing melanoma. The latest scientific reports suggest sunscreens are as effective as lolly water.”

In recent years, reports a 2015 Italian medical study, “many researchers have epidemiologically studied whether sunscreen use influences the malignant melanoma (MM) incidence upon sun exposure. Surprisingly, most of the researchers observed that sunscreen users have a higher incidence of MM than non-users.” [1]

That study explores the possibility that chemicals in sunscreen may actually cause cancer, not reduce it.

“I would have thought Consumer would be looking much deeper at the multi-billion dollar marketing scam that sunscreens appear to be,” says Wishart.

A 2017 US Government scientific review of sunscreens and skin cancer found:[2]

• “The evidence that interventions designed to reduce exposure to UV radiation by the use of sunscreen, protective clothing, or limitation of sun exposure time decrease the incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer is inadequate.”

• “It is possible that individuals who use sunscreen may experience excess sun exposure because they avoid sunburn but do not avoid harmful UV radiation.”

• “There is inadequate evidence to determine whether the avoidance of sunburns or the use of sunscreen alters the incidence of cutaneous melanoma.”

• ” A meta-analysis of 18 studies that explored the association between melanoma risk and previous sunscreen use illustrates widely differing study qualities and suggests little or no association.[36] A systematic review of the association between sunscreen use and the development of melanocytic nevi in children reported similar issues with study quality and heterogeneity, hindering conclusive assessments; however, of 15 studies meeting inclusion criteria, 12 found either an increased incidence or no association.[37] Thus, the current evidence indicates that sunscreen application as practiced in the general population shows no clear association with reduced risk of melanocytic nevi or melanoma.”

In summary, says Ian Wishart, “Consumer’s study blathering on about SPF factors is utterly irrelevant. The much bigger fundamental question Consumer should have asked is this: After 50 years of sunscreen use, what hard evidence is there that the billions of dollars spent on sunscreen by consumers has saved even one life? The studies indicate sunscreens are killing more people than they are saving.

“As the US National Cancer Institutes 2017 review found, there is scientific evidence to suggest that sunscreens actually cause melanoma by preventing sunburn but not reducing dangerous UV exposure, giving consumers a false sense of protection. If sunscreens are causing melanoma, New Zealanders deserve to know.”

Wishart is the author of two bestselling health books, Vitamin D [2012] and Show Me The Money Honey [2016], and has debated the efficacy of sunscreens directly with the Cancer Society of New Zealand. For both books he conducted an extensive review of scientific papers on sunscreen efficacy.


[1] “Are tyrosinase inhibitors in sunscreens and cosmetics enhancing UV carcinogenicity?”, Morpurgo et al, Experimental Dermatology, 2015, 24, 546–559, DOI: 10.1111/exd.12715

[2] Skin Cancer Prevention (PDQ®) Health Professional Version, PDQ Screening and Prevention Editorial Board

E-cigarettes to reduce traditional smoking– no good evidence

In response to the article ‘Vape, don’t smoke – expert’ published on Newshub on 24 November 2017 stating “A professor of public health has claimed smoking rates would be dramatically reduced if misinformation wasn’t being spread about e-cigarettes.”

“As far as we’re aware, there is no good evidence demonstrating that using e-cigarettes will reduce the incidence of smoking normal tobacco cigarettes,” says Letitia O’Dwyer, Chief Executive of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ).

“However, we recognise that for some individuals who struggle to give up using current smoking cessation aids, the use of e-cigarettes may be beneficial, but we need to make sure that we’re targeting that group,” says Dr Jones, Medical Director of ARFNZ.

“Restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to only those people who are smoking and want to use e-cigarettes to give up or reduce harm is something that should be considered – and perhaps a subsidy would help in that situation, and being part of a smoking cessation program,” says Dr Jones who is also the local branch President of the Thoracic Society.

“But what we don’t want is our younger generation of New Zealanders using e-cigarettes or vaping thinking they are not harmful. We just don’t have enough information on the long-term effects of these products,” says Dr Jones.

This stance of caution is in alignment with the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), an organisation comprised of the world’s leading international respiratory societies representing 70,000 members globally. Their position is that health and safety claims regarding electronic nicotine delivery devices should be subject to evidentiary review.

The FIRS standing point on e-cigarettes and vaping has been presented by leading international experts at The Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR) Congress 2017 in Sydney (23-26 November 2017).

FIRS comprises of American Thoracic Society (ATS), American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), Asociación Latinoamericana De Tórax (ALAT), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS).

#DearGrief –What would you say to grief?

With many young people struggling in the aftermath of a loss, two young men who have lost their siblings, Conor Burling and Luka Wolfgram, are championing a #DearGrief campaign to start the conversation about grief.

#DearGrief is about sharing what you would like to say to grief and the different ways we deal with grief. For some, it is writing a journal, for others, it is throwing themselves into a marathon or a mountain climb, or like Conor Burling, it is getting inked. Twelve years after the loss of his three year old sister, Kenzie, Conor is sharing his #DearGrief story through a video message about his memorial tattoo he had done in her honour. The video has had 30,000 views since it was published last week.

“I always think of Kenzie and I wanted something to show how she is part of me and I carry her with me everyday. Living with grief is tough and it changes you, but we can help each other by sharing messages so people know they’re not alone. That’s what #DearGrief is about,” says Conor.

Bereavement in childhood is surprisingly common, with 1 in 20 young people facing the loss of a loved one before they are 18. Grief brings with it difficult and challenging emotions, including sadness, anger, loneliness, confusion, and guilt.

13-year-old Luka Wolfgram lost his younger brother, Kosta to childhood cancer and he has coped by creating short films about his journey with grief. Luka says, “I feel so hurt and so furious that Kosta died…all the nevers are heartbreaking, but Kosta inspires me to do good in this world, that’s why I share our story to hopefully help others.”

Nic Russell, founder of Kenzie’s Gift says, “Grief has an immense impact on our lives and it’s often not spoken about. As a result, children and families don’t receive the support they need. Our vision is that every child and young person gets the right support at the right time, to not only reduce the loneliness and trauma of grief, but to give them the ability to face the future with confidence.”

You can check out #DearGrief messages and join the conversation by visiting the Kenzie’s Gift website,, and sharing your messages to #DearGrief across Kenzie’s Gift social media.




Check out Conor and Luka’s video messages to #DearGrief here:

Culturally Based Programmes Needed to Reduce Asthma

Culturally Based Programmes Needed to Reduce Rate of Severe Asthma in NZ – Experts

Culturally targeted healthcare programmes based in churches and on marae are needed to help reduce the impact of severe asthma in Pasifika and Māori communities according to local experts.

New Zealand has the fourth highest hospital admission rates for asthma of all OECD countries with the proportion of Pasifika and Māori children admitted twice as high as European children.

Severe asthma is a specific type of asthma where symptoms do not improve even when maximum amounts of usual medications are taken, and where other possible causes for the symptoms have been eliminated.

Estimates suggest up to 10% of the asthma population have a severe form of asthma. In New Zealand, that could equate to more than 52,000 Kiwis who may struggle to control their day-to-day symptoms and continue to have frequent asthma flare-ups, despite taking their maximum prescribed doses of asthma medication.

The inability to control the symptoms of severe asthma with medication means that therapy options are limited and as many as 40% of adults with the disease may be hospitalised annually as a result. Around one in three adults with severe asthma are dependent on oral steroids – a treatment regimen which may cause a range of side effects including weight gain, an elevated risk of diabetes and infections as well as having a detrimental impact on their mood.

Asthma mortality rates are also highest among Māori and Pasifika peoples, with rates 4.8 and 5.8 times higher than rates for those of other ethnicities.

The condition is not always well managed following hospital treatment with one in five Māori/Pasifika people readmitted to hospital within a year of being first admitted with asthma symptoms.

A new report has found that the higher asthma burden in Māori can be attributed to a combination of exposure to the wider determinants of asthma, access to care, asthma treatment, cultural safety and self-management issues; strategies aiming to more effectively manage severe asthma in Māori should target these sites of action.

The report reviewed a number of marae based, asthma treatment programmes which were able to establish credibility among whanau and had improved outcomes for Māori with severe asthma. Christchurch and Auckland based GP Dr Api Talemaitoga agrees Māori and Pasifika sufferers are most at risk of severe asthma and often require urgent after-hours medical attention or admission to hospital.

“One thing I see in my after-hours role is that there are a large number of Pasifika people who are not using preventative medications, and these can be patients who have previously been admitted with severe asthma, but once their episode has passed have not continued to use a preventer,” he says.

“The thing with asthma is it’s quite invisible, if you had a bad cut, you would of course go to a doctor and get it looked at, but with asthma it’s easy to minimise its effects until it’s at a critical stage which can be terrifying for both adults and children,” he says.

Dr Talemaitoga says poverty plays a role in a family’s ability to prevent, manage and respond to severe asthma.

“What might start off as a cold, can become a bad cold, and combined with a poorly insulated house, and cooler nights, the patient is unable to get warm. Often they can develop a lower respiratory chest infection which makes their asthma worse. It is these type of environmental factors which mean that acute attacks often present in after-hours clinics,” he says.

Dr Talemaitoga says more needs to be done to better educate the Pasifika community on the danger of severe asthma at both a cultural and clinical level.

“I think health days at churches are very effective in communicating in a language and environment they are comfortable and familiar with. We’ve proven this approach works with the success of rheumatic fever, pneumococcal and whooping cough programmes, but now we need to address severe asthma,” he says.

As well as culturally appropriate education Dr Talemaitoga says healthcare providers need to ensure they are taking the time to delve into the family history, correctly diagnose severe asthma, and stress the importance of medication in combating severe asthma.

A member of the Asthma Foundation’s expert advisory group, Dr Talemaitoga spreads his time between clinics in Christchurch and Wellington, often training healthcare practitioners on severe asthma diagnosis.

“I tell them that using humour, appropriate language and making time to explain how to use medications are all critical steps in dealing with the disease.

“As doctors we need to know more than just their health issues to properly diagnose asthma, we need to know their social background, their home environment and their family history,” says Dr Talemaitoga.

“If we are not taking the time to find out family history (for example children whose parents have asthma are more likely to have it), we could misdiagnose it or miss it completely,” he says.

Severe asthma can in some cases be misdiagnosed as a chest infection, while the chest infection can be treated with antibiotics, a clinician could miss the respiratory inflammation which would result in another hospitalisation further down the track, he says.

He says there is some good news when it comes to severe asthma in that it is treatable with patients often able to make a recovery once given the appropriate medication or medical intervention.

Auckland woman Danielle Murray knows first-hand the impact of asthma on a family. The mother of four, her husband and two of the children all have asthma, with Danielle’s inhibiting her quality of life since she was two.

“I get hospitalised about once or twice a year, and I have to go to the doctor to go on a nebuliser an additional couple of times a year. It’s normally when I start getting sick ,with a cold or flu. I can’t keep on top of it. I have to have my puffer every four hours, then two hours, then one – then it stops working and I have to go into hospital for about three days and stay on the nebuliser,” says Murray.

“I have had severe asthma my whole life, which means I can’t go anywhere without a puffer. When I get an attack I literally can’t breathe – if I don’t have my puffer I could die. I always have an inhaler in my bra in case I can’t get to my bag in time!”

Murray says as a child suffering from severe asthma often made her anxious which culminated in a major asthma attack during a school cross country event.

“I was curled up in a ball, I couldn’t breathe, my puffer was at the other end of the field and I couldn’t get up. I was so scared. I managed to eventually make it back and it was ok, but I remember being absolutely terrified.

“I still have that every now and again, when the puffer’s at the other end of the house or the kids have moved it – I can’t breathe and it’s terrifying. Because I’ve lived with it for my whole life I’ve learned to manage it pretty well, but it can still go wrong really quickly sometimes,” she says.

Dr Talemaitoga’s advice to anyone suffering from the symptoms of asthma is to seek medical advice.

First New Zealand study of pathological hoarding

An estimated 35,000 New Zealanders have clinically severe hoarding behaviour, according to the country’s first snapshot of the debilitating mental illness. A further 56,000 people are likely to have sub-clinical hoarding behaviours that could later develop into a diagnosable condition.

Those with clinically severe hoarding are more likely to be single (70 per cent of hoarders), female (80%), clinically depressed (50%), unemployed (40%), or receiving some form of income support (70%).

The findings come from a University of Otago, Christchurch research project on ageing called the Canterbury Health Ageing and Lifecourse (CHALICE) study. In the CHALICE study, 404 Canterbury residents aged 50 were chosen at random from the electoral role to take part in a half-day of assessments, including a psychological assessment for mental health issues such as hoarding.

CHALICE researchers found 2.5 per cent of study participants met the clinical criteria for pathological hoarding. A further 4% had sub-clinical hoarding issues. While hoarding can begin in adolescence, it is known to worsen with age for some people. At the last census there were 1.4 million New Zealand residents over the age of 50, and 2.5% of this group is 35,000.

CHALICE researcher Dr Janet Spittlehouse says hoarding is a debilitating illness and causes significant distress. Severe hoarders tend to have a persistent and significant difficulty in throwing possessions away regardless of their value, and experience distress on doing so.

The living areas of hoarders tend to be so cluttered they can no longer be used for their intended purpose. These people often experience significant personal distress or impairment because of their condition.

Spittlehouse says people in the study who exhibited severe clinical hoarding behaviour described themselves as anxious, fearful, timid and easily fatigued. They said they had problems with decision making and inattention.

For people over 40 years clinically significant hoarding behaviours can be associated with loss and stress, she says. Experiences of loss, such as loss of a spouse or loss of a career through retirement are more likely as people age.

First New Zealand Online Alcohol & Drug Study Underway

Massey University’s College of Health researchers are launching a new study on alcohol and drug use throughout the country, including measuring levels of drug use in wastewater.

In recent months, community and drug treatment workers have reported increasing use of methamphetamine and synthetic cannabinoids, particularly in smaller cities and towns. Many of these communities already have high social deprivation and poor access to health services.

However, there is currently no research on the extent of unmet demand for health services for alcohol and drug problems in these and many other communities to support the case for improved services. Social stigma attached to methamphetamine, and ignorance about the contents of many new synthetic drugs means users are often reluctant or unable to accurately self-report drug habits in traditional face-to-face surveys.

The research team will use a range of innovative approaches, as well as conducting a national online survey to get a better understanding of what drugs are out there, and to identify gaps in health services.

Associate Professor Chris Wilkins, leader of the drug research team at Massey’s SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre, is leading the study, which began on the weekend.

“Wastewater-based epidemiology is a new method which can provide objective measures of alcohol and drug consumption from drug metabolites found in pooled sewage. The sampling is done at the inlet of a sewage treatment plant, so it covers the entire community and guarantees no individual or household can be identified. A national programme of wastewater-based epidemiology was recently completed in Australia and similar studies have been conducted in Europe and Asia,” Dr Wilkins says.

“We will also conduct a national online survey open to all New Zealanders to obtain a better understanding of recent drug trends and to identify gaps in health services, and barriers to finding help in different communities throughout the country,” he says.

The online alcohol and drug survey can be self-completed from a smart phone, tablet or computer via this website:; over the phone on 0800 554 101; or face-to-face with an interviewer on request, by texting the word “research” to 0800 554 101.

The survey takes 8-10 minutes to complete. No names or contact details are required and everything said is strictly confidential. The findings will inform improved access to health services for alcohol and drug users and innovative approaches to delivering services.

The New Zealand alcohol and drugs study will run until February 2018.

Hay fever? How to prepare your home this pollen season

If you experience hay fever symptoms, like a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes or sneezing, it’s important to keep your home healthy by cutting down on allergens. Pollen season typically strikes during spring and summer, with pollen levels tending to be higher on warm dry days.

“Limiting your exposure to pollen, particularly in your home, can really help,” said Letitia O’Dwyer, Chief Executive of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ. “The majority of people affected by seasonal hay fever are allergic to dust mites, pollen or moulds.”

“We’ve developed some spring cleaning tips to help you prepare your home.”

Follow these tips so that your family can breathe easier this allergy season:
• Wash sheets, pillowcases, soft toys in the bedroom weekly in water hotter than 55°C.
• Cover mattresses, quilts and pillows with dust mite-resistant encasings.
• Open curtains and air bedding in the sunshine and give them a regular clean.
• Consider venetian blinds or flat blinds, which are easier to clean than heavy curtains.
• Use a damp or electrostatic cloth to dust hard surfaces (including floors).
• Ask someone else to do the vacuuming, as this increases allergen in the air for up to 20 minutes. Also consider using a vacuum cleaner with an asthma and allergy sensitive HEPA filter.
• Keep rooms dry and well ventilated.
• Clear out the clutter.
Another way to manage hay fever and/or allergy symptoms is to use products that may reduce allergy triggers in day to day life.

“The Sensitive Choice® programme was created to help consumers identify asthma and allergy aware products,” said O’Dwyer.

“Sensitive Choice® approved products have been assessed by an independent panel. Next time you are out shopping, look for the reassuring blue butterfly on product packaging, including bedding, cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, and more.”

Sensitive Choice® has helped New Zealanders reduce their allergy reactions for many years. Its partners provide funds for research and education led by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ to reduce the health, social and economic impacts of asthma and allergies in New Zealand.

If you are one of the thousands of New Zealanders with asthma or allergy symptoms, visit the Sensitive Choice® website for products and services that may be a better choice for you and your family.

All Sensitive Choice® approved products are listed on the website, sorted by the following category or allergy triggers:

Category Trigger
Indoor climate control Chemicals
Cleaning products and services Dust Mites
Bedding and Furniture Mould
Building and Renovating Pets
Flooring Pollen
Health and Personal care Smoke
Vacuum and deep cleaners
Pool and Spa care


Ms O’Dwyer urged New Zealanders to speak to their doctor or pharmacist, take prescribed medications and create an allergy free home environment to help keep spring and summer allergies well managed.

New tent hospital boosts NZ’s disaster response

A view from the resuscitation area in the new portable medical facility, which has helped the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT) to earn World Health Organization classification as a Type 1 Mobile and Fixed Outpatients Emergency Medical Team.

A high-tech tent hospital has improved New Zealand’s ability to save lives and give emergency health care when disasters strike at home or in the wider South-West Pacific region.

The new portable medical facility has helped the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT) earn World Health Organization classification as a Type 1 Mobile and Fixed Outpatients Emergency Medical Team, becoming the 13thteam worldwide to achieve the standard.

“We’re thrilled to gain WHO classification because it means our team meets international standards and we’re self-sufficient to provide emergency health care for at least 100 patients per day for 14 days, whether in this country or to support our Pacific neighbours,” says Ministry of Health emergency management director Charles Blanch.

“It’s vital we are able to increase our capability for disaster responsiveness for our region because we know early treatment in disasters saves lives.”

Last month, WHO representatives visited New Zealand to put the team through its paces, making sure it could safely and efficiently deploy to a disaster zone within 72 hours.

NZMAT’s new emergency tent features a series of interconnecting sections for triage, maternity, resuscitation, a 10-stretcher observation ward, and a pharmacy. There’s also storage, and an administrative command and control area. It carries sufficient equipment and medical supplies to treat 1400 people in two weeks, including making its own drinking water from raw or salt water.

Blanch says it can be swiftly erected in 90 minutes and arranged in different configurations depending on the space available and needs. It is easy to transport and gives great flexibility for the team to respond to different emergencies in remote locations.

“The tent hospital is essentially a mobile outpatients clinic and means the team can offer triage, first aid, stabilisation, referral of severe trauma, non-trauma emergencies, and care for minor trauma injuries.”

The World Health Organization has praised the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Government for meeting its international standards.

“We congratulate the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team on its achievements and thank them for their commitment to this quality assurance process and their future assistance to those in need after disasters and emergencies,” its verification team told the Ministry.


NZMAT is a civilian-based emergency medical team that can be deployed to support local health services in a major emergency or disaster in New Zealand or the South-West Pacific. The team includes doctors, nurses, paramedics, allied health and non-medical members, such as logisticians and emergency managers.

It has been developed over the last 6 years following the Samoan 2009 tsunami, and to date, has deployed to the Solomon Islands, Philippines, Vanuatu and Fiji.

NZMAT involves a partnership between the Ministry, Counties Manukau District Health Board, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and about 150 trained staff from across the health sector.

A four-day training course for new NZMAT members next month will include using part of the new tent hospital.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week!

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is reminding Kiwis that Nature is key.

“There are lots of meaningful ways each of us can unlock our wellbeing by spending time with nature every day,” Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson says.

Research shows that nature has positive effects on our wellbeing; it makes us happier, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, improves concentration, buffers against stress, makes our lives meaningful and reduces health inequalities related to poverty.

To celebrate nature and MHAW, there are hundreds of events happening around New Zealand that will see Kiwis head outside to discover how happiness and wellbeing blooms when we start to connect with the green and blue spaces that surround us every day.

“Connecting to nature doesn’t need to happen in a national park, for some people it can simply mean going for a walk around the block, taking time to look out the window or keeping a photo of a special place on your desk,” Mr Robinson says.

On World Mental Health Day (Tuesday 10 October), the MHF is holding a national MHAW Lockout.

From 12–1pm, Kiwis will down tools and head outside for picnics, walks, beach clean-ups and social sport games.

“The workplace lockout is a great opportunity to plant the seed for staff that their wellbeing is being taken seriously,” says Mr Robinson.

“It’s a win-win for employers and staff; spending quality time with nature will support your staff to feel happier and more productive, and busy, stressful workplaces can lead to reduced productivity, absenteeism and high turnover.”

For some people, connecting to nature during MHAW means taking part in the MHF photo challenge.

“We’ve been blown away by the beautiful stories to emerge about the people, places and small treasures that warm peoples’ hearts. We’re also thrilled to see how many New Zealanders are reconnecting with nature because of the challenge and noticing how much it improves their mental health and sense of wellbeing.”

The MHF acknowledges that mental health has been top of peoples’ minds this year.

“It’s great that New Zealanders are thinking about mental health and calling for change. Awareness is useful but it’s also time for action, and we can start by doing things like connecting to nature to look after our mental health and wellbeing. We all have a role to play and there are little things we can each do to boost our mood.”

For events and activities in your area, visit

Record numbers for Mental Health Awareness Week

A record number of people, organisations and workplaces have signed up to take part in Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), which runs from 9 – 15 October.

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) says it’s been blown away by the support and enthusiasm for MHAW around New Zealand.

This year, the MHF is reminding Kiwis that Nature is key.

“We’re encouraging Kiwis from all walks of life to stop thinking of nature as something locked away in national parks and forests but as the daisies in the berm, the tree outside the window and the vast, beautiful sky above,” Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson says.

Spending time in nature helps to grow, support and nurture our mental health and wellbeing.

“When I go for a jog or a surf it helps to restore me when I feel run-down and it helps to keep stress at bay,” says Mr Robinson. “For some people connecting with nature means taking time to look out the window or keeping a photo of a special place on your desk. There are lots of meaningful ways each of us can unlock our wellbeing by spending time with nature every day.”

Workplace wellbeing

To get New Zealanders thinking about how easy it is to schedule in some quality time with nature, the MHF is holding a national MHAW Lockout on World Mental Health Day – Tuesday 10 October.

 From 12–1pm, Kiwis will head outside and discover how happiness and wellbeing blooms when we start to connect with the green and blue spaces that surround us every day.

“Busy, stressful workplaces can lead to reduced productivity, absenteeism and high turnover. The MHAW Lockout is a great way to plant the seed with your staff that their health and wellbeing matters,” Mr Robinson says.

“Spending quality time with nature will support your staff to feel happier and more productive.”

Workplaces big and small have signed up – including New Zealand Rugby.

Something for everyone

From a hikoi in Kaitaia, to a New Zealand-wide, outdoor yoga class and a photo challenge sponsored by Nikon, there’s something for everyone this MHAW.

“Last year, we heard of people living with mental illness who couldn’t face going outside, but the photo challenge encouraged them to take that first step out the door,” Mr Robinson says.

The MHF is also working on a special MHAW project for central Christchurch, which will see a ‘Nature is Key’ mural go up on a city wall.

“We want to add to the growing vibrancy of Christchurch, while also supporting people to grow their own wellbeing – watch this space,” says Mr Robinson.

Spending time in nature great for your wellbeing

Nearly 50% of New Zealanders will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, and depression is set to overcome heart diseases as the biggest global health burden by 2020.

Research has shown that spending time in nature is great for mental and physical health.

Evidence proves it makes us happier, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, improves concentration, buffers against stress, makes our lives meaningful and reduces health inequalities related to poverty.

The MHAW website and Facebook page will have ideas for how to spend time in nature – even for those who, for any reason, can’t leave their home or workplace.

There will be a range of other events to celebrate MHAW throughout the country.

NZNO Award – Services to Nursing and Midwifery 2017

This year there are two recipients of the NZNO Services to Nursing and Midwifery Award. Dr Helen Snell and Pepe Sinclair. NZNO President Grant Brookes presented the awards at the Annual Conference at Te Papa this week.

Dr Helen Snell has had a long and distinguished career as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner. She is a strong advocate for diabetes nurses and online learning programmes for primary health care nurses.

“Dr Helen Snell was New Zealand’s first nurse practitioner diabetes and related conditions. Her contribution to nursing knowledge of diabetes is very significant and she was a crucial lead for Health Workforce NZ diabetes workforce review. She was instrumental in the launch of e-learning diabetes programme for health professionals,” Grant Brookes says.

Pepe Sinclair has worked for many years as a mental health nurse, has been involved in national and international research on mental health, wellbeing and nursing workloads.

“She is lecturer and a passionate advocate for better health outcomes for Pacific people. This award goes to a mother, grandmother and great grandmother born in Rakahanga Cook Islands,” Grant Brookes said.

“A warm congratulations to Pepe Sinclair and Dr Helen Snell.”

Rarotongan communities to receive free dental care

The Wrigley Company Foundation along with the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) today announced the 2017 recipient of a US$5,000 dental grant to help improve dental care and education in the Pacific Islands.

This year, the grant has been given to a team of dental professionals from the Merivale Dental Group in Christchurch, New Zealand, known as the ‘MDG Angels’, who applied for the grant after one of their staff visited the Cook Islands and saw the vital need that exists there for better dental care. The funding will allow the five MDG Angels to take their services to Rarotonga for a week-long offering of free dental services and education for targeted patients.

“We are thrilled to have received this grant to support our programme, which is designed to help combat the prevalence of periodontal diseases and oral infections due to the lack of prevention and access to dental services in Rarotonga,” says Dr. Jenny Kim, a director of the Merivale Dental Group, who spearheaded the team initiative.

Dr. Kim says the programme will also involve teaching children about the importance of oral hygiene from a young age, including correct brushing and flossing techniques, as well as discussion around the implications of high plaque levels and a high sugar diet.

Adult Cook Islanders will benefit with the programme aiming to offer dental services in partnership with the local hospital to target diabetic patients and those under cardiovascular care, offering periodontal assessment and treatment, radiographs, extractions of abscessed teeth and restorative dentistry for carious teeth. Any leftover supplies will be donated to a clinic in Tupapa.

Dr. Kim says the group will treat this programme as a pilot, following which they plan to undertake a thorough evaluation process to improve on efficiencies for future roll-outs.

In 2012, the partnership between the Wrigley Company Foundation and the NZDA was formed to improve the reach and quality of dental treatment and education to at-risk communities. The Community Service Grant programme provides funding to volunteer dentists and teams of allied dental professionals to cover the purchase of supplies, treatments and other expenses including educational material, to develop new and expand existing oral health community service projects in New Zealand and the Pacific.

“This year, we received 26 applications of merit from across the country and we are thrilled that funding from the grants will have a positive impact on oral health education and treatment for many at-need Kiwis and this year, Cook Islanders,” says Wrigley Pacific Corporate Affairs Director, Catherine Pemberton.

“The grants are vitally important to help dental professionals carry out much needed community service work for vulnerable people from all sorts of communities.”

Predictive tool to help manage NZ’s melanoma crisis

A melanoma expert says a tool for general practitioners that uses just eight primary factors to predict people’s risk of developing a melanoma could identify 80 percent of melanomas and reduce deaths from the disease.

Professor David Whiteman, who heads the Cancer Control Group at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Queensland, has told a gathering of melanoma experts in Queenstown that New Zealand can’t ignore its melanoma crisis.

“You either have to prevent new cases, which will take decades, or find the melanomas already out there and treat them early. If you don’t catch melanoma early, you have to treat it as an advanced disease and that’s very expensive and not always successful.”

Professor Whiteman leads a team that has developed a melanoma risk prediction tool for Australian GPs that uses just eight precisely weighted primary factors to predict a person’s risk of developing a melanoma over the next three years.

The tool was developed from data collected over the last four years from nearly 44,000 Queenslanders aged 40 to 69, none of whom had melanoma at the time they completed a comprehensive questionnaire on skin cancer risk factors. They were followed through the health system to see who developed a melanoma. The data of those who did was used to identify the eight primary risk factors:

1. age (older people have a higher risk)
2. gender (men have a higher risk)
3. tanning ability (those who don’t are at higher risk)
4. hair colour (fair and red heads have a higher risk)
5. number of moles they had as a teenager (the more moles, the higher the risk)
6. whether they’ve had a non-melanoma skin cancer (those who have are at higher risk)
7. family history of melanoma (higher risk)
8. whether they use of sunscreen
Professor Whiteman says a patient can complete a simple questionnaire while waiting to see their GP, who can use the tool to analyse the answers and help them then decide whether the patient needs to be screened.

He says it doesn’t mean no one in the low risk category will develop a melanoma or that everyone in the high-risk category will. “But those in the top 40 percent of risk will have 80 percent of all melanomas so it means melanomas can be prevented by targeted screening.

“It also means you don’t have to collect information on a whole lot of other things that we know are associated with melanoma but are irrelevant because they are explained by one of these eight primary factors. For example, childhood sunburns are all experienced by people with fair or red hair or those who don’t tan.”

Professor Whiteman says he was surprised that having had another kind of skin cancer identified as one of the eight primary risk factors.

“It was always thought to be a risk factor for melanoma, but in fact it’s a very strong predictor, which I don’t think is common clinical knowledge.”

The tool is being evaluated in a clinical setting and could be available for use in general practice in New Zealand within a couple of years.

MHF calls for unified action to prevent suicide

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is devastated by the increase in provisional suicides released today.

The statistics show that 606 people died by suspected suicide in the 2016/2017 year, the third year in a row that the number of suspected suicides has increased.

“The figures are shocking, and I want firstly to extend my sincerest condolences to all those who have lost someone to suicide,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says.

“Losing someone to suicide can be especially hard to cope with. We know that days like today, when everyone is talking about suicide, can be extremely difficult. Take care and keep in touch with your support people. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

Many people who die by suicide believe that they are a burden to their loved ones and the world would be better without them.

“If that’s true for you please talk to someone today. A friend, a family member, a helpline. You deserve help and support to get through this.”

The increase in numbers is a sobering reflection on the failure of New Zealand to come together to prevent suicide in a coordinated way.

Thousands of people all around the country are working to prevent suicide and many positive programmes and initiatives are in place. However, the lack of a unified suicide prevention strategy that spells out the role and responsibilities of all government agencies, communities and individuals means that much of this work lacks direction and occurs in small pockets around New Zealand.

“It’s time for us all to come together and turn this situation around,” Mr Robinson says. “The widespread criticism of the draft suicide prevention strategy demonstrates that the government needs to work much harder to develop a plan for significant change that he community is inspired by and supports. A target for reducing deaths would be a good step in the right direction

“It’s time to resource schools to adequately care for students in distress, to end bullying and teach young people the skills they need to cope when life gets difficult.

“It’s time for sustained investment in mental health services, including well-resourced and supported crisis services, universal access to early mental health care and a strong, unflinching examination of what is working in our mental health system and what is not.”

The MHF is determined that as a country New Zealand must start to address the drivers of poor mental health and suicide.

“There is no denying that social factors such as poverty, inequality, racism and homophobia contribute to our suicide rate,” Mr Robinson says.

“However we have not yet enacted policies that address these issues as part of a mental health strategy. It’s time for this to change.”

On a community and individual level, the MHF believes there is still work to do to empower communities and individuals to feel confident and safe to support and intervene when someone they know is in distress.

“Over the last few years, much has been done to increase awareness of suicide,” Mr Robinson says. “It’s time to focus on suicide prevention. It’s no good being aware that suicide happens and is a problem if we’re not giving people the skills to actually act to prevent suicide.”

While the causes of suicide are complex, the solutions don’t have to be. We all have a role to play in preventing suicide. Here are three things we can each do:

Keep an eye out, then act: Trust your gut. Most of us can tell when others are going through a difficult time. If you notice someone is withdrawn, isolated, angry, talking about death or suicide or seems to feel worthless, it’s time to act. This can be scary, but it’s better to be wrong than be silent. Tell them what you’ve noticed and ask how you can help. Listen, without judgement, to their answers. If they have a plan to take their life they need urgent help, so call the mental health crisis team or take them straight to ED. If they’re not in crisis, keep them talking, build a support network around them and you so no one is carrying this alone. Read more: Are you worried someone is thinking of suicide?

Take the load off someone else: Many people who are at risk of suicide feel isolated, like they don’t belong or fit in anywhere. If they’re being discriminated against for any reason (including having mental health problems, their gender or sexuality, race, culture or religion) then this is an added burden. While this is a heavy load to carry, it’s quite easy for us to take that load off. Reach out to people in your life who seem lonely or alone, make small connections with them and keep it up. Make an effort to understand and accept people who are different. These small acts of connection can make a huge difference.

Let other people help you: If you’re feeling suicidal you deserve help. Give yourself a chance and talk to someone. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help – it’s the bravest thing you can do. You deserve care and support – ask for it. Talk to someone you trust. Go to your doctor or straight to the ED. Call a helpline. Don’t ever believe that you aren’t worthy of help or that no one can help you. Read moreHaving suicidal thoughts and finding a way back

The media can help to prevent suicide by increasing awareness of suicide prevention. This can include discussion of warning signs, what to do when you see them, how to ask for help and where to go for help. This information and more can be found at

Kiwis Amongst the Highest Consumers of Fruit and Vegetables

New Research Proves Kiwis Amongst the Highest Consumers of Fruit and Vegetables Globally

Auckland, Thursday 17th August – Research released today by the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust puts Kiwis on the global map when it comes to awareness of the health benefits and consumption of fruit and vegetables.

Awareness of the 5+ A Day message, which encourages all Kiwis to eat five or more servings of colourful, fresh fruit and vegetables every day, remains high with cut through to 87 per cent of all New Zealanders – equating to more than 4 million people.

“Compared to global statistics on fruit and vegetable consumption we rate among the highest in the world,” says Paula Dudley, General Manager of 5+ A Day.

According to recent European Union statistics, less than 15 per cent of the total population aged over 15 consumed at least five servings a day, while one in three did not eat any fruit and vegetables every day. And the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study of more than 140,000 participants from 18 countries globally, found that mean fruit and vegetable intake was 3.76 servings per day. It concluded that the consumption of fruit and vegetables was low worldwide.

The latest 5+ A Day research, completed in June this year by Nielsen, found that 37 per cent of those surveyed consumed five or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Meanwhile, 59 per cent of New Zealanders reported eating at least four different types of fresh fruit and vegetables daily. The research involved 700 people aged 15-plus in key regions across New Zealand. And Dudley says the Ministry of Health’s regular surveying of a much larger sample size (of 17,000 adults, including parents of 4,000 children) suggests consumption of 5+ A Day is around 40 percent.

“Now it is time for some stretch goals – we need to keep awareness top of mind to move consumption even higher to 45 percent. This isn’t just a numbers game – there are huge health benefits for us all in doing so”, says Dudley.

The latest consumer data also indicated the positive impact of social media in spreading the 5+ A Day message.

“We are already very active in this space, and we are also investing in our social strategy to expand our influence with key health persuaders,” says Dudley.

High profile nutritionists and recipe book authors Julia and Libby Matthews are business-savvy sisters who run a healthy eating website and Facebook page with over 66,000 fans, and are 5+ A Day ambassadors. Julia Matthews says interest in food-related health on social media is huge.

“People are looking for inspiration to lead healthier lives and are turning to social media for information, recipes and evidence. We are thrilled to be working alongside 5+ A Day to help spread the good word,” says Matthews.

Dudley says they encourage people to think in terms of a serving being about a handful – roughly the equivalent of a banana, a pear or an apple, or a handful of salad greens. “Everyone uses their own hand, so a kid’s serving is a lot smaller than an adult’s.”

“Fresh is best; we let people know whenever possible to eat food that is in season for the best value and taste. And all fresh fruit and vegetables count towards your 5 + A Day,” she says.

People who consume extra fresh fruit and vegetables have also reported significant improvements to their psychological wellbeing and less stress, with boosts in vitality and motivation within a couple of weeks, said Dudley, citing the University of Otago study released earlier this year.

Fruit and vegetables contain nutrients and antioxidants and have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and to boost the health of blood vessels and the immune system.

Support for Mental Health & Addiction Matters to All of Us

At some stage in their lives, all New Zealanders are affected by mental health and addictions issues, either in their own lives or in the life of someone they know. The it matters! campaign declares that when people want and need it, support should be available for these issues. And it insists that this is an issue that should matter to every politician.

“We’re saying that it matters to all of us and we want all parties and politicians to commit their focus to the mental health and addictions system,” says Marion Blake, CEO of Platform Trust. “There have been many voices speaking out about this for a long time, but it’s time for New Zealanders to say together to our political leaders that the time is now to fix our system to support people when they need it. This has to be their priority.”

In an election year, competing issues crowd for attention and at times the importance of those issues in everyday lives can become lost. While there are an abundance of statistics and stories that together depict a support system that needs some serious work, those statistics can also distance us from the issue and make us forget that this is about someone we know – that this is personal to each of us.

The website ( provides an interactive space for political engagement on this important issue. Each political party’s mental health and addictions policy, if they have one, is included on the it matters! website and the campaign tracks the politicians who have said that it matters to them, and those that haven’t. The website also allows organisations to add their support to this issue.

“Whatever your politics, if this is something that matters to you, please add your support to let your politicians know that you want their commitment to this issue,” requests Ms Blake.

It matters is an initiative of Platform Trust, the national network of community organisations that support New Zealanders by providing a wide range of mental health and addiction services and creating a positive place for people experiencing mental health and addiction issues to live and work.

NZ Finally Increasing Best Weapon Against Drink Driving

Alcohol interlocks becoming a mandatory sentence is one of the most significant blows against drink driving in New Zealand’s history, says the Automobile Association.

“Alcohol interlocks are the best weapon we have to keep drink drivers off the road but, until now, they’ve been sitting in the holster,” says AA Motoring Affairs General Manager Mike Noon.

“The law has now finally been changed to make it mandatory for the highest risk drink drivers to have to get an interlock put in their vehicle. That is going to mean less drink drivers getting back behind the wheel, less crashes and less lives lost.

“One third of the deaths on our roads right now involve alcohol and we have to do more to stop them.”

The Government’s Land Transport Amendment Bill that passed into law yesterday will make alcohol interlocks a mandatory sentence for repeat drink drivers or those caught at very high levels of intoxication.

Alcohol interlocks are like an in car breathalyser that requires the driver to do tests before and during a car trip. If the driver has any alcohol in their system the car will not start.

About 10,000 drink drivers eligible for an interlock normally appear in courts each year but under the previous sentencing system only a few hundred were receiving an interlock sentence.

Even so, in 2016 the less than 400 interlocks currently active in New Zealand stopped a driver affected by alcohol being able to start their car 2124 times.

“The AA is going to be closely monitoring the number of drink drivers receiving interlocks from 2018. If we can get at least 5000 offenders a year having an interlock put in their vehicle it’s going to likely prevent tens of thousands of attempts to drink and drive,” says Mr Noon.

International evaluations have found alcohol interlocks reduce reoffending by an average of 60% and in the Australian state of Victoria interlocks have stopped someone affected by alcohol driving more than 250,000 times since they were introduced in 2003.

“The AA praises the Government for striking another blow against drink driving. What we have to do now is make sure that the law delivers the results intended and that the thousands of eligible offenders each year definitely do end up with an interlock in their vehicle.”

Otago finding new ways to beat an old and enduring enemy: TB

An innovative approach in drug discovery in combating one of the world’s greatest health scourges – tuberculosis (TB) – is being pioneered by an international research group that has Otago microbiologists as key leading members.

The team, which includes Professor Greg Cook and colleague Kiel Hards of Otago, recently published its findings on the promising approach of identifying the key molecular components of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes TB, that supersensitise the pathogen to new TB drugs so that their effectiveness can be enhanced. Their study was recently published in the leading international journal PNAS.

The World Health Organization states that TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and a leading killer of HIV-positive people. Globally, 1.8 million people died of the disease in 2015, and 10.4 million new cases were reported – an estimated 580,000 people with these new cases had multidrug-resistant TB.

Professor Cook says multi- and extensively-drug resistant strains of TB are becoming a huge problem, and they are taking an enormous toll on some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The cure rates for people with drug resistant strains of TB are incredible low (5-10 per cent) and the mortality rate extremely high.

“Our team is trying to develop new ways to treat this horrible disease, because our existing weapons against it are increasingly failing, too toxic and act too slowly. Finding new drugs is an incredibly difficult proposition, with only two new drugs licensed for TB in decades.
“We believe the key to beating TB is to discover what the key components of its physiology are that make this pathogen so stubborn to treatment by many TB drugs. During the course of his PhD work at Otago, Kiel Hards uncovered respiration as an essential component in allowing TB to avoid the action of new TB drugs.

“We’ve been investigating the key respiratory components that sensitise TB to new and old TB drugs with collaborators at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, USA. By knocking out the two respiratory oxidases of TB simultaneously – one through gene deletion and other through drug inhibition, this led to rapid cell death of drug-tolerant TB (persisters) and cleared its infection in mice.

“We do not yet know how it might work in humans, but this work clearly highlights the incredible potential of targeting the respiration of TB with drugs that take out both respiratory oxidases. We think that it presents an excellent avenue to develop fast-acting drugs that synergise with current TB medicines and could ultimate revolutionise the way we treat TB infections.”

Professor Cook says that TB treatment is currently a lengthy and often unpleasant process that involves drugs that have to be taken for many months and can turn out to be ineffective because bacteria have developed resistance to the compounds.

“With our fresh approach to interfering with the pathogen’s respiration, we are confident that new treatments that bypass the multiple-drug resistance problem, and cut back the existing long treatment period, will not be that far around the corner.”

NZ has major fitness problem

New Zealand has a major problem committing to active participation, ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie says.

Too many of the government messages in the early 2000s focused on slogans such as walk to the bus stop when that was never the answer to the looming inactivity, diabetes and obesity issues, Beddie says.

“To be blunt, the old school food pyramid failed Kiwis in the same way that the old school belief that gold medals and long-term participation levels are related.

“For too long we have been sending the wrong messages, but despite all that more than half a million Kiwis make the effort to be active through structured exercise such as gyms or studios.

“Participation in organised sport is declining whereas participation in structured exercise has been consistently growing for the last 15 years. Even during the last financial recession, gym memberships grew and have constantly out performed New Zealand’s GDP growth, in good times and bad.

“What’s clear is that Kiwis want choice and they want flexibility, which is something that that exercise offers. If people like doing things by themselves, they can. If they want to do it in a group they can, such as early morning starts or late-night workouts – both are on offer.

“Because the exercise industry is run almost entirely by the free market, providers of exercise have to adapt and give the consumer what they want to stay in business. As a result, we now have much greater variety in price, product offering, location and service levels than ever before.”

Beddie says he agrees that a well-balanced diet, regular exercise and activity lead to increased energy, decrease in the risks of lifestyle disease, better sleep and a stronger body.

This is now a fact and without question. Only 10 years ago the role of exercise was still being questioned, whereas now the health benefits are too numerous to list. However, information isn’t the issue anymore, it’s helping people to change behaviour, he says.

“We urge less active New Zealanders to change their sedentary lifestyle. It’s about supporting them in their journey, which is much more than just bombarding them with more information, or a new quick fix.

“Waikato University PhD candidate Wendy Sweet says the best personal trainers coached rather than directed their clients. This empowers people to continue to make the right choices, while being guided by an expert.”

Kiwi personal training pioneer Sweet undertook researched work of the top trainers in New Zealand, exploring the intervention strategies that they implemented to be most effective in changing their client’s health behaviour, helping them get the results they wanted and to continue exercising to keep healthy in the longer term.

A Stanford University report recently found Kiwis on average walk only four kilometres a day and Beddie says while that is better than nothing it should not be celebrated. Last year, New Zealanders were found to be the chubbiest of 11 nations surveyed by Cigna 360 degrees Wellbeing Score research.

The ExerciseNZ industry Awards will be held on November 25 to pay tribute to the trainers helping Kiwis get fitter.

NZ 2nd in the world to register KEYTRUDA – chemo combination

New Zealand second in the world to register KEYTRUDA® – chemo combination

July 14, 2017, New Zealand follows the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in being the second country worldwide to register KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in combination with chemotherapy for untreated advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). 1,2

KEYTRUDA, which was funded for advanced melanoma last year, now has three registrations for advanced non-small cell lung cancer in New Zealand.

Paul Smith, MSD New Zealand Director, says, “This registration; allowing use of KEYTRUDA in combination with platinum-pemetrexed chemotherapy, will provide more lung cancer patients with access to KEYTRUDA.”

Philip Hope, CEO of Lung Foundation New Zealand, says, “Lung cancer causes the highest number of cancer-related deaths in New Zealand, accounting for more than 1,600 deaths per year. More people die of lung cancer than of breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma combined.3

“Lung cancer also has a significant impact on Maori compared to the non-Maori population with rates 2.5 to 4 times higher in Maori men and women respectively.3

“We are seeing KEYTRUDA registrations for lung cancer coming through very quickly which is great for New Zealand patients. I am also encouraged to see another chemotherapy – pemetrexed is to be funded; although this took many years.”

Paul Smith, MSD New Zealand Director, says, “Clinical trial results presented at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology conference; showed 57 percent of KEYTRUDA plus chemotherapy patients responded to treatment versus 30% of patients treated with chemotherapy alone.4

“Median progression free survival was yet to be reached for KEYTRUDA plus chemotherapy patients, versus 8.9 months for the patients receiving only chemotherapy.4

“Although this study has a relatively short follow-up –14.5 months; it is one of the first studies of chemotherapy in advanced NSCLC patients in which median progression free survival is exceeding one year. 4, 5 Larger, phase three studies are on-going to further confirm these promising early results.

“PHARMAC’s subcommittee PTAC noted last year that survival rates for patients with advanced disease are poor with current treatments. 6 And now we are seeing the clinical trial results for immunotherapy medicines surpassing anything we have seen before in this sub-set of untreated non-small cell lung cancer patients. This is a promising time for all lung cancer sufferers in New Zealand, and it is important that they gain access to the newest and most effective treatments.

“MSD is working with PHARMAC and we are doing all we can to have KEYTRUDA funded for all New Zealanders’ as quickly as possible.

“Patients wanting to access KEYTRUDA should seek further advice from their cancer specialist about the options that may benefit them.”



1. MSD data on file
2. New Zealand Data Sheet
3. Lung Foundation New Zealand website. Last accessed May 2017
4. Papadimitrakopoulou VA et al. First-Line Carboplatin and Pemetrexed with or without pembrolizumab for advanced nonsquamous NSCLC: Updated Results for KEYNOTE-021 Cohort G. Poster presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. June 2-6, 2017, Chicago. IL, USA
5. Langer et al, Carboplatin and pemetrexed with or without prembrolizumab for advanced, non-squamous non-small-cell lung cancer: a randomised, phase 2 cohort of the open-label KEYNOTES-021 study Vol 17 November 2016
6 PTAC meeting held on 3 & 4 November 2016 (minutes for web publishing)

* Consent was obtained from Philip Hope, CEO of Lung Foundation New Zealand

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) 50mg powder for infusion

KEYTRUDA is a Prescription Only Medicine

Use: KEYTRUDA is used:
• in the treatment of melanoma which cannot be removed by surgery alone or when it has spread to multiple sites in the body.
• in the treatment of a kind of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Side effects: Sore throat/discomfort swallowing, reduced red blood cell count, over- or under-active thyroid, decreased appetite, dizziness, headache, cough, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pain (myocarditis), abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, itching, skin blistering, peeling or sores, ulcers in mouth or in lining of nose, throat or genital area, redness of the skin, patches of discolouration, rash, joint pain, back pain, muscle pain or weakness, pain or swelling in the extremities, unusual weakness, fevers or chills, feeling tired, inflammation of the kidney, colon or lung, liver disease, lesions within the pituitary gland, decreased sodium levels in the blood, hair loss (if given in combination with chemotherapy), upper respiratory tract infection. You may experience more than one side effect at the same time.

All medicines have risks and benefits. Talk to your doctor to see if KEYTRUDA is right for you. KEYTRUDA is a funded medicine for melanoma patients– restrictions apply. KEYTRUDA is an unfunded medicine for NSCLC patients. Ask your health professional the cost of the medicine and any other medical fees that may apply. Use only as directed and if symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your doctor, pharmacist, or health professional.

Based on data sheet prepared 23 May 2017. Marketed by: Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited, Newmarket, Auckland. For additional product information, consult the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI), available on request, phone 0800 500 673 or refer to the Medsafe website

We need to talk about sugar

The public health risks associated with sugar are just as serious as smoking and should be treated as a priority by governments, doctors and medical specialists, a key meeting of anaesthetists has been told.

According to Dr Judith Killen, a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, the explosion in public health spending on sugar related diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity was a “wake-up call’’ for politicians and medical experts.

“It’s really quite simple. We have to start talking about sugar as a serious public health issue,’’ Dr Killen, a senior anaesthetist at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital in NSW, said.

Dr Killen spoke on the topic for a presentation Diseases of Pregnancy: Diabetes at a recent meeting of rural anaesthetists in Broome.

“Just think about it. All you need to do is substitute ‘smoking’ with ‘sugar.’ Too much sugar which can lead to Type 2 diabetes can cause vascular disease, amputation and renal failure. Sugar is as dangerous as smoking and like smoking it is addictive.”

Dr Killen, who has more than 30 years’ experience as an anaesthetist in intensive care and general hospital settings, is working with ANZCA and the Australian Diabetes Society to develop new national before, during and after surgery diabetes patient guidelines for doctors and medical specialists.

Dr Killen told the meeting how the “extraordinary increases’’ in recent years of pregnant women with type 2 or gestational diabetes is a “direct effect of the diets increasingly considered normal to consume in pregnancy – foods with high simple carbohydrate content including soft drinks.’’

“We currently have foods such as sweetened yoghurts being given healthy eating stars for their calcium content and low fat despite sugar content sometimes exceeding that of desserts such as ice cream,” she said.

“Diabetes is one of the commonest causes of miscarriage and congenital anomalies and women with diabetes are more susceptible to other complications of pregnancy such as hypertension and pre-eclampsia.”

Dr Killen believes there needs to be greater awareness among politicians, including those representing rural, remote and regional electorates in Australia and New Zealand, of the public health risks associated with excessive sugar intake and the link to the development of type 2 diabetes.

“Patients with diabetes have an increased risk of still birth, preterm labour, obstructed labour and a need for caesarean delivery,” she explained.

“The babies are at increased risk of respiratory distress syndromes and hypoglycaemia.”

With studies and research now highlighting the links between in-utero sugar exposure and childhood and adult obesity Dr Killen believes stronger measures are needed.

Dr Killen told the meeting that a raft of measures should be considered including higher taxes on sugar products and soft drink or sugar taxes.

“We need to consider a whole battery of things because more and more of our health dollar is being spent on the treatment of type 2 diabetes which is a preventable disease.”

Dr Killen said doctors and medical specialists such as anaesthetists also had a role to play in discussing the issue with their patients, particularly before surgery.

“It is essential that we develop an approach to understanding the importance of a good diet and feeling comfortable about discussing this with our patients. Our role is to ensure our patients are fit and healthy before surgery and diabetes can increase the rate of complications quite dramatically.”

Dr Killen said type 2 diabetes was now a bigger scourge than smoking in many countries, including Australia.

“As doctors we have to start talking about sugar in the same way as we have talked about smoking over the years and as a society we have to approach it in the same way as we have approached smoking.”

Dr Killen believes Australia’s ground-breaking cigarette packet labelling policies with their graphic images could be used as a model for a similar approach to food labelling with high sugar content.

Low vaccination rates fuelling Auckland’s mumps outbreak

Low vaccination rates fuelling Auckland’s mumps outbreak

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is concerned not enough young Aucklanders are immunised in the face of an unrelenting mumps outbreak.

“This year we have had over 130 mumps cases in Auckland compared with 35 last year. Unfortunately 80% of the current cases were not fully vaccinated. It is disappointing because mumps is a preventable and serious disease,” says ARPHS Clinical Director Dr Julia Peters.

“Most recover from this disease. However in the last six months a number of people have suffered from severe complications caused by mumps.”

This year some adolescent males have been hospitalized for pain and swelling in their testicles, which in rare cases can result in infertility. Some females have experienced ovarian inflammation and another person developed meningitis.

Non immune pregnant women who catch the disease risk miscarriage in the first three months. In rare cases mumps can cause permanent hearing loss.

“I urge parents to check with their doctor to ensure their families’ measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations are up to date. The vaccination is free,” says Dr Peters.

Almost 70% of the cases are occurring in children and teens aged 10-19 years. Mumps can spread quickly among those who are not immune, particularly in schools. An individual with mumps at a secondary school could cause an outbreak, because immunity in that age group is well below the national average.

“If parents do not organise vaccination quickly, their child may be excluded from school. We are in the midst of an outbreak and already many students are scrambling to catch up on school work after missing school for several weeks,” says Dr Peters.

ARPHS is working with primary care, early childhood, schools and tertiary institutions to provide support and resources to minimise the spread of mumps.

See attached graph for history of mumps cases in Auckland, Jan-June 2014-2017.

If you suspect mumps call your doctor or Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116.

For a mumps fact sheet click here, for a vaccination fact sheet click here.

For questions about vaccination call the Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 Immune or visit

Dry July Means More People Thinking About How They Drink

Social fundraising initiatives like Dry July encourage people to think about how they drink, says Matt Claridge, Executive Director of The TomorrowProject, an organisation charged with changing Kiwi attitudes to drinking.

To date, more than 2200 Kiwis have signed up online for this year’s Dry July – an initiative to raise funds for New Zealanders living with cancer.

But according to the Tomorrow Project, the organisation behind the Cheers responsible drinking campaign, it has an additional benefit of making people stop and think about how they drink alcohol.

“Taking a month off drinking – or even thinking about doing that – could encourage us to think about why and how we drink which will likely make for more responsible drinkers long-term,” says Mr Claridge.

The best way to learn more about your own drinking is to find out what a standard drink is, or whether your drinking is “normal”, which you can do by going to

The Tomorrow Project is an industry-funded organisation committed to helping to create a safe and responsible drinking culture in New Zealand through evidenced-based, targeted interventions that address the reasons behind problem drinking.

Link to full article: “Dry July Means More People Thinking About How They Drink”

Closing the border in extreme pandemics worthwhile – Study

It may sometimes make sense for island nations like New Zealand to temporarily close their borders in extreme pandemic situations, a new study by Wellington researchers suggests.

The study of costs and benefits of complete border closure in New Zealand in response to new pandemic threats has just been published in the international journalPLoS ONE.

One of the authors Professor Nick Wilson from the University of Otago, Wellington, says the study found that despite the costs/disruptions caused to tourism and even trade, there could be significant overall societal benefits to border closure in certain severe pandemic scenarios.

“With increasing risks of new pandemics due to the growing density of human populations and various socio-economic, environmental and ecological factors, there is a need to look at different scenarios for better pandemic planning,” says Professor Wilson.

The researchers note that although for most countries border closures to prevent pandemic spread are thought to have little benefit, the situation is different for island nations where border closure may be viable.

The study analysed data from past influenza pandemics and looked at healthcare costs, valuation of life, lost tourism revenue and even lost trade. It also considered the option of trade still occurring without cargo ship crews ever having to leave their vessel.

Study co-author Professor Michael Baker, also from University of Otago, Wellington says: “Indeed, the options for New Zealand will improve in this regard if current international work on drone cargo ships with minimal or no crew becomes a reality.”

“Other technological advances in such areas as early outbreak detection and communication will also support the kind of measures we are discussing here,” says Professor Baker.

The authors argue that this new study shows that island countries like New Zealand need more detailed studies of the costs and benefits of border closure. There is also a need for updated pandemic plans and the legal capacity for the Prime Minister and Cabinet to order the borders closed in under one day of deliberations.

“It will be a very hard call – but in the case of some severe pandemics it could save thousands of lives and huge costs from illness if border closure is rapidly achieved” says Professor Wilson.

More details on this work can be found in this blog

Link to full paper: “Protecting an island nation from extreme pandemic threats: Proof-of-concept around border closure as an intervention”. PLoS One. 2017;12:e0178732.

Mental health of rural NZ at tipping point

The health of New Zealand’s rural communities is at an all-time low, a leading mobile health expert says.

Mark Eager, chief executive of Mobile Health and the national mobile surgical bus, says rural people find it hard to access health professionals. They often receive treatment much later than people in cities and their condition is often acute when they get sick, even though early detection is key, he says.

“Mental health of rural New Zealand is at a tipping point. Mobile Health and our mobile surgical bus will feature in the Health Hub at the national Mystery Creek Fieldays this week.

“The hub will include more than 20 health providers showing how to improve health and provide practical demonstrations. We’ll will have interactive displays that will give the public a hands-on look at health.

“Auckland hospital emergency department specialist Dr Tom Mulholland will be testing for diabetes and cholesterol; Melanoma NZ is looking at sun damage to skin; the Rural Support Trust, Men’s Health, Breast Cancer awareness, Oral Health, Rural Women, Water quality will all be involved.

“The Rural Bachelor of the Year will have a challenge on Wednesday and the surgical bus will be performing an operation that will last for four days. The public will be able to wander through and look at this first hand.”

Eager says there is growing government concern regarding rural health due to things like dairy prices and drought which is impacting on the mental health of so many rural Kiwis.

Small countries like New Zealand rely on the outreach and open support of health organisations to stay connected, which is why the Fieldays’ health hub is of such a huge benefit, he says.

“The reason why the surgical bus is so critical in rural areas is providing access to care closer to home. It uses local people which means it is ‘owned’ by them. This increases the local skills.”

New Zealand’s mobile surgical bus marked its 15-year anniversary earlier this year after more than 21,300 operations in 24 towns.

The bus runs on a five-week rotation system around New Zealand, carrying out operations at Kaikohe, Dargaville, Warkworth, Pukekohe, Te Puia, Wairoa, Taumarunui, Waipukurau, Taihape, Hawera, Levin, Dannevirke, Kapiti, Featherston, Takaka, Motueka, Buller, Waikari, Rangiora, Oamaru, Clyde, Queenstown, Balclutha and Gore.

A report by health consultants, Sapere Group, has found up to 300 patients annually would probably miss out on surgery if was not for the mobile surgical unit, with its state-of-the-art surgical operating theatre. The bus receives $4 million annually from the Ministry of Health.

Seasonal fruit packed with natural goodness

Eating fresh fruit is a natural, easy way to boost wellness during winter, says 5+ A Day.

Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly will help to ward off sniffles and sneezes during the coldest months.

Seasonal fruit, such as mandarins, oranges and lemons, taste great as well as being good sources of vitamins and minerals to help the immune system do its job well.

Here are some quick tips on how seasonal produce can aid in boosting immunity, while adding a burst of colour to winter meals.

Two mandarins provide you with 180 per cent of your daily vitamin C requirements.
Easy recipe ideas: For a healthy workday lunch, gently toss together mandarin segments, salad greens, chopped spring onion, sliced capsicum and shredded chicken. Finish with a homemade dressing. Salsa is another great way to add a sweet, tangy flavour burst to winter meals. Peel and dice mandarin segments and mix with finely chopped red onion, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, olive oil and chopped coriander. For extra heat, add chilli. Mix gently and serve with grilled chicken breast or with tacos.

A good source of vitamin C, this tangy fruit has many uses in the kitchen. From baking to perking up salads and marinades, the zesty taste of lemon quickly brightens up winter dishes. 
Easy recipe ideas: 
For a fresh winter slaw, toss finely sliced fennel and chopped walnuts. As a dressing, squeeze over fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil. When roasting root vegetables, squeeze over the juice of one to two lemons and tuck the halves in around the vegetables. Once the vegetables are cooked, squeeze over the juice of another half a lemon and sprinkle with plenty of chopped flat-leafed parsley. Or prepare an Italian gremolata – finely grated lemon zest mixed with finely chopped parsley and garlic – and sprinkle over savoury dishes before serving.

Kiwifruit is a nutrient-rich fruit, thanks to its high-fibre content, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. As well as being a good source of vitamin C, green kiwifruit contains an enzyme which aids digestive comfort; and gold kiwifruit helps the body to absorb iron from food.
Easy recipe ideas: At breakfast, dice or slice a kiwifruit and add it to your porridge or cereal. For a nutritious mid-morning snack, mix chunks of peeled kiwifruit with low-fat yoghurt. Or mash or blend a peeled kiwifruit into your favourite vinaigrette or salad dressing for a fruity twist.

Originally from South America, tamarillos arrived in New Zealand in the 1890s. Low in fat and calories, they are a good source of vitamin C which is essential for the growth and repair of our skin, teeth and blood vessels. 
Easy recipe ideas: 
Peel tamarillos before using them in your meals, as the skin can make them taste bitter. Use a sharp knife to peel the tamarillos, or cover them with boiling water for about two minutes, then plunge them into ice water and pierce the skin and it will slip off. For breakfast or a quick dessert, chop some peeled tamarillos and mix them with stewed apples to add flavour and goodness to porridge or low-fat yoghurt. Winter casseroles and stews can be given a flavour boost by adding whole peeled tamarillos or slices.

Juicy, thirst-quenching oranges are a winter favourite in many households. They have many health benefits including being a good source of vitamin C. The juice, zest and fruit can be used in sweet and savoury dishes. 
Easy recipe ideas: 
For a Moroccan-inspired lunch, combine cooked couscous with cooked shredded chicken, fresh mint, chopped pistachios, and one peeled, chopped orange. Or gently combine peeled and thinly sliced oranges to sliced red onion, feta cheese and olives for a colourful salad. Sprinkle over finely chopped fresh mint or coriander and finish with a homemade vinaigrette before serving. If you fancy a sweet, zesty beverage, mix freshly squeezed orange juice with your favourite herbal tea.

Pure Food Co Addresses New Research on Elderly Malnutrition

May 26, 2017 – A new study released today by Massey University has highlighted the issue of malnutrition in the elderly. The study found 23 per cent of older people living independently in the community, or newly-admitted to hospital or residential care, were malnourished with a further 35 per cent deemed at high risk. This demonstrates the challenge that care providers face in dealing with malnutrition in older people.

“Malnutrition amongst our ageing population is a big problem in aged-care facilities and outpatient, in-home care, says Sam Bridgewater, one of Pure Food’s founders.

The Pure Food Co. is working with healthcare and aged care providers to address this issue with it’s range of protein fortified soft foods.

“Our meals, which are a combination of the best of pure foods and clinical nutrition, are more delicious than supplements and more nutritious than regular food,” adds Bridgewater.

In a recent study carried out by the New Zealand company, a number of aged-care patients were introduced to The Pure Food Co. meals. Before the change in diet, around 38 per cent were able to maintain weight. After the introduction of the nutritionally fortified, texture-modified diet, 77 per cent regained weight within weeks, and were able to maintain it for longer than four months.

The Pure Food Co. has now partnered with a leading dietitian, Kaye Dennison, to address malnutrition. Kaye is a well known and respected dietitian with thirty years experience in professional dietetics – she has previously collaborated with the Pure Food Co. on independent case studies of residents in aged care groups.

Says Kaye Dennison – “I am pleased to be associated with The Pure Food Co. working on consumer focused solutions for malnutrition and eating difficulties. The company is taking a genuine approach to delivering high quality, evidence based, food solutions and I see this as a great way of addressing nutrition related problems across community, healthcare and aged residential care settings.”

From April 2017, Kaye is the independent clinical dietitian adviser for the Pure Food Co. providing professional input on their product development, research plans and clinical advocacy.

= ENDS =

About The Pure Food Co.
The Pure Food Co. was founded in 2014 by Sam Bridgewater and Maia Royale to provide delicious, nutritious foods that enable people to eat well and thrive. The company has big plans to become a global leader in healthcare nutrition, providing the best combination of pure foods and clinical nutrition.

The past few years have seen rapid growth, from a small startup to now having specialist soft texture, fortified meals supplied into major aged care groups, half of New Zealand hospitals and large food service companies. It has the support of senior dietitians and healthcare associations, and has won several industry awards: 2015 New Zealand Food Awards winner, Health and Wellness Category; 2015 New Zealand Innovation Awards finalist; 2016 ‘Rising Star’ by the Deloitte Fast Fifty.

About Kaye Dennison (NZ Registered Dietitian)
Kaye Dennison is a registered dietitian and registered nutritionist with over 30 years’ experience of working in dietetics both in New Zealand and internationally. Kaye has worked as a clinical dietitian for over 20 years and through her experience as a Community Dietitian she has developed a special interest in the identification and early treatment of people with malnutrition.

Her interest in gerontology nutrition led Kaye to conduct research on intensive nutrition support for community dwelling older people and to supervise a wide range of student research projects around nutrition issues related to seniors. She has considerable experience in working as an advocate for older people’s nutrition issues, at a national level in her role as founder and previous Chair of the NZ Nutrition Foundations, Committee for Healthy Ageing.

Kaye has presented at a large number of national forums to a wide range of professional and consumer groups, on the risk of malnutrition in New Zealand’s older population. Her leadership skills have been recognised at a national level in receiving the Award of Excellence from the NZ Dietetic Association in 2012 and in 2014 winning the inaugural Janice Mueller award for Leadership in Allied Health in New Zealand.

In 2014 Kaye established her own business, Optimize Health Solutions Ltd and works in a number of portfolio areas including teaching and research in gerontology nutrition, health care project management and coaching and mentoring for health professionals. Kaye is a member of Dietitians NZ and the DNZ Special Interest Group for Nutrition and Gerontology, The NZ Nutrition Society and the NZ Gerontology Association.

STUDY: Strategies needed to address malnutrition in older people
Massey University – 26/07/2017

Sleep problems focus of new study on Kiwi kids with autism

New research will look at developing effective treatments for sleep problems that affect the growing number of New Zealand children and young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

University of Canterbury up-and-coming researcher Dr Laurie McLay has received an emerging researcher first grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) to investigate the use of functional behavioural assessment1 to develop individualised, comprehensive sleep treatments for children with ASD. She will be working with a team of psychologists including Associate Professor Karyn France and Professor Neville Blampied, both from the University of Canterbury.

Sleep distruptions such as delayed sleep onset and frequent and prolonged night-time awakenings, can have an enormous impact on how children function during the day and within their families. Such sleep problems are associated with poorer physical and mental health and wellbeing (e.g., obesity, diabetes, mood disorders, and substance abuse), quality of life, cognitive functioning, learning, and academic performance.

Dr McLay says that up to 83 per cent of children with ASD experience sleep disturbances, and that these are unlikely to abate over time in these children without effective treatment.

Although these sleep problems are complex in origin, she says evidence suggests there is a learned component that requires behavioural solutions.

“There are poorly understood biochemical differences in children with autism, such as irregular melatonin production and secretion, however, pharmacological strategies like melatonin and sedative medications only offer partial solutions. There is a large, treatable behavioural component to the sleep problem that becomes entwined with the parental behaviours that can unintentionally exacerbate it,” says Dr McLay.

For this HRC-funded study, Dr McLay and her team will recruit children throughout New Zealand aged between three and 18 who have been formally diagnosed with ASD and whose parents have reported sleep disturbances.

HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson says the results from this study could significantly improve the effectiveness of clinical treatments for sleep disturbances in children with ASD, but also have further general benefits “given that sleep problems in children with ASD have a major impact on their daytime behaviour, the severity of their ASD symptoms, and the wellbeing of their parents and families”.

Dr McLay is one of 13 researchers to receive emerging researcher first grants valued at a combined total of $3.03 million in the HRC’s 2017 funding round, up from $1.45 million in 2016.

“By targeting support to New Zealand’s most promising emerging researchers in priority health areas such as our young people, we’re helping to ensure that the research workforce can meet the needs of the healthcare system and our unique population, both now and into the future,” says Professor McPherson.

See below for the full list of 2017 HRC emerging researcher first grant recipients or to read lay summaries of the research projects, go to and filter for ‘Researcher Initiated Proposals,’ ‘Emerging Researcher First Grants’ and ‘2017’.

1 Functional behavioural assessment is a broad term used to describe a number of different methods that allow researchers and practitioners to identify the reason behind a specific behaviour.

2017 Emerging Researcher First Grants

Dr Benjamin Albert, the University of Auckland

Omega-3 fats during obese pregnancy, for metabolic protection of the offspring

36 months, $249,926

Telephone: 027 2430 625

Dr Timothy Angeli, the University of Auckland

Development of targeted gastric ablation as a novel gastrointestinal therapy

36 months, $250,000

Telephone: (09) 923 1497, ext 81497

Dr Kathryn Beck, Massey University, Auckland

Optimising cognitive function: the role of dietary and lifestyle patterns

36 months, $246,508

Telephone: (09) 414 0800, ext 43662

Dr Joanna Black, the University of Auckland

Aniseikonia as a potential barrier to neural plasticity: Does image size matter?

36 months, $247,915

Telephone: (09) 923 2405

Dr Michael Collins, Auckland District Health Board

The BEST-fluids study: Better evidence for selecting transplant fluids

48 months, $249,965

Telephone: (09) 307 4949, ext 22957

Dr Moritz Lassé, University of Otago, Christchurch

Improving risk assessment for worsening kidney function in heart failure

36 months, $170,877

Telephone: (03) 964 0451

Dr Kate Lee, the University of Auckland

Deciphering the metabolic function of igf2 derived peptide hormones

36 months, $ 232,843

Telephone: (09) 923 5702, ext 85702

Dr Laurie McLay, University of Canterbury

Functional behavioural sandman: Treating sleep disturbance in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

36 months, $160,825

Telephone: (03) 364 2987 ext 7176

Dr Niranchan Paskaranandavadivel, the University of Auckland

Activation to recovery mapping to predict gastric dysrhythmias

36 months, $250,000

Telephone: (09) 373 7599, ext 89742

Dr Simone Rodda, the University of Auckland

Improving the effectiveness of lifestyle change strategies

36 months, $250,000

Telephone: (09) 923 6573

Dr Damian Scarf, University of Otago, Dunedin

Extending brief alcohol interventions using mobile technology

36 months, $232,371

Telephone: (03) 479 7636

Dr Petr Tomek, the University of Auckland

IMPACT-ful resistance mechanism of cancer cells

36 months, $249,994

Telephone: (09) 923 6804

Dr Jaimie Veale, University of Waikato

The New Zealand transgender health survey: Stigma and protective factors

30 months, $238,842

Telephone: (07) 837 9216

St John welcomes Government funding boost

St John welcomes today’s news that more than $100 million will be included in this year’s budget to provide double crewing of all emergency ambulance responses over the next four years.

The package also introduces a new sustainable funding model to increase St John’s baseline funding and to meet growing demand for ambulance services while addressing historic shortfalls.

“Ending single crewing is one of the most significant developments in our ambulance service history,” says Chief Executive Peter Bradley. “We will be able to recruit 430 frontline jobs over four years and provide rural New Zealand with the same crewing levels as urban areas – a move that will save more lives and make it safer for our crews.”

“It will also give us the chance to promote from within and for a large number of our volunteer ambulance officers to become paid staff.”

Mr Bradley says the funding shows the Government’s commitment to ambulance services and recognises St John’s unique role in the New Zealand health system. “It means we’ll be in a better position to meet the growing demand for emergency primary care and community health services.”

While 375 of these roles will address single crewing, the remaining roles will be to deal with current and future increases in demand.

He says phasing out single-crewed emergency ambulances has been a priority for several years, and the new funding model means St John can now plan for it with certainty.

“It will take time to gear up and implement, and the first step is reviewing each station across the country. One size does not fit all and we’ll be talking with local communities and our people on the ground to find the best approach in each area.”

One thing that won’t change is St John’s charity status and we will still need the support of New Zealanders through donations and part charges for ambulance services.

“We’ll still need to fund more than 25 per cent of our costs through donations and will continue to rely on the generosity of New Zealanders to maintain services and continue improving.”


• St John provides emergency ambulance services to nearly 90% of New Zealanders and covers 97% of the country’s geographical area

• St John treated and/or transported 437,978 patients in the last financial year (end June 2016)

• St John is made up of a mix of full-time paid employees and volunteer staff

• St John has contracts with Ministry of Health and ACC who have been funding just under 70% of the operating costs for the ambulance service. The remaining 30% has been funded through emergency ambulance part charges, fundraising and revenue from commercial activities such as first aid training and medical alarms. St John’s fundraising and commercial activities also support the organisation’s charitable community programmes.

Native fungi could hold the answer to antibiotic resistance

New Zealand’s native fungi could hold the answer to antibiotic resistance crisis

Amid growing concern over the need to combat antibiotic resistance – considered one of the greatest public health threats of the modern age – a campaign has been launched to determine if a collection of fungi, unique to New Zealand and the Pacific, could hold the key to discovering new antibiotics.

Cure Kids, the nation’s leading charitable funder of child health research, kicks off its ‘Fight Against Superbugs’ crowdfunding campaign today.

“Countries all around the world have been asked to act now. New Zealand may be a small nation, but our native fungi and our unique biodiversity could provide an answer to this global problem. If we don’t act now and discover new medicines, it is predicted that within a generation, antibiotic resistance will overtake cancer as the leading cause of premature death worldwide,” says Cure Kids Research Director Tim Edmonds.

Each year, an estimated 700,000 people around the world die from drug-resistant infections, and this is predicted to rise to 10 million people a year by 2050.

The ‘Fight Against Superbugs’ campaign aims to raise $250,000 to support pioneering research by scientists at the University of Auckland who will study fungi from a collection by Landcare Research. Fungi are a proven source of antibiotics, such as penicillin, and most antibiotics in clinical use are from soil microbes.

Microbiologist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, head of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University, and her team aim to mine 1000 prioritised fungi from the collection of 10,000 over the next 12 months to identify pathogen-fighting properties.

The results of the work to date are promising – Dr Wiles’ team have piloted the approach, screening 300 fungi, using a cultivated form of bacteria that’s been engineered to glow when alive. When the bacteria stop glowing, it signals potential antimicrobial qualities in the fungi which then undergo more tests.

“We’re really hopeful that we will make rapid progress in our search for new antibiotics. Children are at increased risk and more vulnerable to infectious diseases. We are particularly hopeful we will identify fungi that are able to kill the bacteria responsible for many of the serious diseases rife in New Zealand such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA),” says Dr Wiles.

New Zealand has some of the highest rates of infectious diseases in the developed world. This is coupled with high rates of antibiotic consumption. Infectious diseases, such as MRSA, can cause skin, respiratory and bloodstream infections. Most at risk of this potential killer are children under five and people over 65.

“We are running out of time, we need to find a solution,” says Dr Wiles. “While current antibiotics have proved highly effective in the defence against infectious diseases, common bacteria regularly develop new strains that resist these antibiotics.”

Dr Wiles recently published her book ‘Antibiotic resistance – the end of modern medicine?’, which explores the threat to humans, agriculture and animals from superbugs and antibiotic resistance. In the book, Wiles says antimicrobial resistance threatens to undo many of the medical achievements of the last century.

Since Cure Kids began supporting the project’s pilot programme 18 months ago, the organisation has received generous donations from individuals and businesses to help with the research, but more support is needed to move it into this next phase.
“We’re so grateful for the support we’ve had to date. Now we’re inviting the wider community to help us raise the $250,000 needed to progress this project so a further 1000 fungi can be screened and analysed over the next 12 months,” says Edmonds.

Every pledge counts and those who give certain amounts will receive special rewards. A $30 donation sees the donor receive the chance to ‘nick-name’ one of the fungi being tested; a $50 donation receives a limited-edition print from New Zealand artist Otis Frizzell; a $100 donation will give the donor a glowing bacteria art kit. Pledges over $1000 will give the donor an opportunity to take part in a one-hour bioluminescent session (painting with glowing bacteria) with Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

“We know that antibiotic resistance is an issue many New Zealanders are concerned about. Particularly for those children at greatest risk of infections. However, it can also seem like too big a problem to know how to help. This campaign gives everyone an opportunity to contribute and play a vital part in enabling our leading experts to search for an answer to this crisis.”

To show your support visit before 8 June or donate here to join the ‘Fight Against Superbugs’.

ABOUT CURE KIDS Cure Kids is New Zealand’s largest funder of child health research outside of the government and fund research into developing better treatments and cures for a wide range of childhood diseases and health conditions including inherited heart conditions, childhood cancers, cystic fibrosis, asthma, epilepsy, burns and child and adolescent mental health. The Cure Kids vision is a healthy childhood for everyone, focusing on raising funds to enable high impact health research to find the cures our kids need. Cure Kids New Zealand was formed 45 years ago and has invested more than NZ $38 million in vital medical research which has saved, extend and improved the lives of thousands of children in New Zealand and around the world. For more information visit

Antibiotics are used in New Zealand (and around the world) to prevent or treat infections in patients undergoing relatively routine operations; Some examples include:
• • Around 25 – 30 percent of babies are delivered by caesarean section.
• • Hundreds of tonsillectomies are performed each year.
• • More than 11,000 hip and knee replacement surgeries are carried out each year.
• • More than 400 people on average are diagnosed with some form of cancer each year. Antibiotics are an integral part of many treatment options for cancer patients.

Common superbugs resistant to antibiotics in New Zealand:
• • In NZ, rates of MRSA infection more than doubled between 2006 and 2011.
• • In 2015, over a thousand people were infected with MRSA.
• • Children and young people with MRSA were more likely to be Māori or Pasifika, live in lower socio-economic areas, and catch the infection in their day-to-day activities.
• • Older people with MRSA were likely to be Pākehā and infected while in a hospital or another care facility.

Staphylococcus aureus (SA)
• • Around 30 percent of healthy humans carry SA, commonly in their nose and throat.
• • Between 2000 and 2011 more than 60,000 people were hospitalised with SA infection, most of which could be treated with antibiotics.
• • Around 10 children a week are admitted to Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital with a disease caused by SA, of which around 7 percent are considered to have a life-threatening invasive disease.

Other superbugs increasingly resistant to antibiotics are: gonorrhoea, TB, Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia), meningitis, endocarditis, Salmonella and E.Coli.
* High Rates of Antibiotic Use in New Zealand
• • Total antibiotic consumption in New Zealand in 2013 was higher than 22 of 29 European countries participating in antibiotic consumption surveillance that year.
• • Antibiotic use in New Zealand increased by 49 percent between 2006 and 2014 and this increase occurred throughout the country across all ages and ethnic groups.
• • Antibiotic consumption is highest in the elderly (over 80 years) and in children under five.

Why fungi?
• • Fungi are a proven source of antibiotics and most antibiotics in clinical use are from soil microbes.
• • When penicillin, an antibiotic made by the fungus Penicillium, was discovered in 1928, it changed modern medicine.
• • There are fungi native to New Zealand and the Pacific, reflecting our unique biodiversity, that have never been studied for their antibiotic potential.
• • To date, Dr Wiles’ lab have examined 300 fungi from the Landcare Research collection and found some able to kill MRSA and M. tuberculosis.
• • The availability of effective antibiotics, in tandem with other public health and medical advances, has helped decrease infant mortality in most western societies from about 20 percent in the late 19th century to less than one percent today.
• • Cure Kids is aware of many families in New Zealand dealing with the life-threatening consequences of antibiotic resistant infections and discovery of new antibiotics in this fungi will help provide new treatment options for the future.

Will Our School Children Get Home Healthy And Safe?

Media Release from NZ School Speeds Embargoed until 12:00AM Monday 1st May


Work Safe is promising adults to ‘get you home healthy and safe’, but little is being done for children who walk or cycle to school. Lucinda Rees from NZ School Speeds says the Government is irresponsible, as there are no consistent rules in place to get school children home ‘healthy and safe’ and is calling on them to put rules place to protect our most vulnerable road users.

Road workers have speed limits of 30km/h and these speed limits are posted in many city centres where adults work. Speed limits outside schools can be up to 100km/h, despite a recommended maximum speed limit of 30km/h at peak times. When children head to school on their bikes, there are no rules to protect them from cars passing dangerously close on the road. Currently there is only a ‘suggested’ passing distance; 1 metre is the recommended passing distance for vehicles driven up to 60km/h and 1.5 metres above 60km/h.

The 8th to 14th May is Road Safety Week and presents an opportunity for the Government to act and put consistent road safety laws in place. David Bennett the Associate Minister of Transport, responsible for road safety, will be aware of recommendations given by The World Health Organisation (WHO). So far, the minister seems to have ignored road safety of our most vulnerable road users. Last year Ms Rees sent correspondence to his department asking for their views on school road safety, but is still awaiting response. With New Zealand’s road toll creeping up, Rees says, “Bennett and all of the Ministry of Transport have nothing to be proud of. They need to take advice from countries like Germany, where rights of vulnerable road users were historically and still are paramount and their road toll reflects this.”

• School children are our future drivers and as walkers or cyclists will learn about road safety from the vulnerable road user point of view as they do in many European countries

• The WHO recommended speed limit outside schools at peak times is a maximum speed limit of 30km/h

• With consistent speed limits outside schools, drivers will know what to expect when approaching school zones, making them safer for all

• There is no mandatory passing distance of cyclists. The recommended cyclist passing distance for drivers is 1 metre up to 60km/h and 1.5 metres above that speed for cyclists

• Exercise is good for children and if they make their independent way to school it will benefit them in many ways

• Perceptual judgment and motor skills are often not fully developed until age 14

• Children are easily distracted and many teenagers feel invincible

• Drivers are required to slow to 30km/h at road works for adult workers and many city centres

• Schools buses loading or unloading passengers have a 20km/h speed limit and similar is needed outside schools

• Travelling to school on foot or cycle is considered a high risk activity by many parents in New Zealand, so few children are allowed to travel independently

• More children walking or cycling will reduce congestion outside schools

“According the WHO, ‘Safe road systems consider the needs of all road users’.” Rees continues, “After the Pike River tragedy rules were tightened around work safety. Do we really need to wait for another tragedy for action to be taken?”

Why we need to talk to our teens about ’13 Reasons Why’

It’s every parent’s absolute worst nightmare. Suicide. Which is why when I caught up with the news this week of the latest Netflix series doing the rounds with our teenagers, 13 Reasons Why, I had this instant sick feeling wash over me and a compelling urge to get up from the couch to go hugs my kids. The graphic series is a confronting story of a high school student who commits suicide and leaves behind a disturbing trail of recordings and flashbacks blaming those who contributed to her decision to end her life.

As a parent of teens these days there is no shortage of things to worry about. Just last week we learned that a fifth of our kids are at the ‘extreme’ end of internet usage. And hot on the heels of that, we learned that in the same research, New Zealand has been rated second worst in the OECD for teenage bullying. It sure makes for dim reading. But it’s the potent cocktail of bullying and suicide that has recently landed on the screens of our teens that has us as parents feeling helpless and alarmed all over again.

Regardless of the debate that has kicked off about whether this series glorifies suicide or is a powerful tool for prevention, this, either way, is undoubtedly a renewed invitation for us as parents to take the initiative to lean in and connect with our teens.

So what are the things our teens need to hear from us as they navigate teen-hood? More than anything our teens need to know that we have their back. Regardless. As they head out there and face the challenges of growing up in our big wide world, they need to know that they have a place to come back to and unload.

They need us to understand that the pressure they feel is real and understandable and they need us to stay curious about what it is like to do a day in their world. Ask them about the best and worst parts of the party they were just at, or the test they just sat. Let them know it’s okay to feel negative emotions and have sad times, like a sad lunchtime – and give them room to express it. We might not be able to fix some of the really hard stuff they are dealing with but we can sit there with them and listen so they don’t feel completely alone in it.

They need to know that although we obviously we love them, we also like them. Bottom line, our teens need to know that regardless of what life throws in their direction, we will face it together.

One quick tip to get a conversation going

Use open questions but set them up to engage by giving them an on-ramp to the conversation. So instead of, “How was your day?”, an easier question to get them talking is, “I was thinking about you today, how did you get on with Ben at lunchtime?” Or, “Seems like you have heaps on your mind right now, how are you finding things with your mates at school?”, “You don’t really seem like your usual self these days, is there stuff causing you grief at school?”

Jo Batts, Family Coach

Turning Healthcare around

Turning Healthcare around: Health professionals learning together makes for better healthcare

How many times have you told your story over and over again to health professionals? Poor communication between clinicians can turn health care into a bad experience.

The University of Otago, Wellington (UOW) is turning this around through an interprofessional education (IPE) programme introduced in recent years for students across the disciplines – dietetics, medicine, physiotherapy, and radiation therapy. This year pharmacy interns have also been included in the Wellington campus programme.

“Many of the complaints investigated by the Health and Disability Commissioner are judged to be related to poor communication between the different disciplines,” says Associate Professor McKinlay from Primary Health at UOW.
Traditionally, medical and other health programmes learn within their own discipline, but in the real world they need to work closely with other health professionals to treat patients effectively and resolve health issues.

“Interprofessional training seems an obvious solution but it is not usual for different health professional disciplines to be taught together,” Associate Professor McKinlay says.

For three weeks in March, 64 health professional students learned together to better understand how to manage patients with “long-term health conditions” and their roles in giving team-based care. With an ageing population, long-term condition management is becoming a major burden on society.

Patients with long-term conditions were recruited by local general practices and visited in their homes by small interprofessional groups.

Pharmacy intern programme manager Debbie Wallace, from the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand says they were enthusiastic at the chance to bring the pharmacy interns into the existing IPE programme.

Debbie Wallace says: “Our pharmacy interns enjoyed the experience especially discussing how to provide collaborative care and visiting a patient at home. Our interns were able to talk with other disciplines about the pharmacist’s role in medicines’ management and the other students shared their skills.”

Associate Professor McKinlay adds that it’s essential in today’s changing healthcare environment for health professionals to understand each other’s roles and to communicate and collaborate effectively.

“The programme helps students and interns collaborate across the health disciplines, and improves outcomes for patients and the community. IPE provides a way to work together more effectively. We know IPE programmes help when students get out into the real world and work as health professionals together,” she says.

For information about IPE programmes at the University of Otago, Wellington:

For more information about IPE at Otago:

Nicotine e-cigs will be legal

Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner has announced the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid will be legalised.

Until now, vapers had to buy nicotine products from overseas. Controls for sale of the products in New Zealand will include restricting sales to over 18-year-olds and prohibiting vaping in indoor workplaces and other areas where smoking is banned under the Smoke-free Environments Act.

University of Auckland’s Professor Chris Bullen said the decision was “pragmatic” and would attempt to balance the benefits and risks to individuals and the wider population.

“Not everyone will agree with all aspects of the legislation, such as the advertising or the banning of vaping in smokefree areas. Nevertheless, it is a major step that acknowledges that using these products is far safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes.”

Massey University’s Associate Professor Marewa Glover said there was “unfortunate confusion” with banning vaping wherever smoking was banned. “Which sends a mixed message that vaping must be similarly dangerous, which it is not.”University of Otago professor Janet Hoek – co-director of ASPIRE 2025 – was concerned that e-cigarettes would be so widely available in dairies, service stations and supermarkets.

“Smokers would seem more likely to switch from smoking to vaping, if they get expert advice, and it is not clear how dairies, supermarkets or service stations are set up to provide such advice.”

Professor Tony Blakely, from the University of Otago, praised the Government’s “cautious approach to applying the same restrictions to the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes as currently apply for tobacco”.

There was still uncertainty about long-term use and more research and monitoring was required, especially around how smokers use vaping to quit tobacco and what chemicals the e-liquids contain.

Changes to the Smoke-free Environments Act will be introduced this year, and likely to come into effect in 2018, according to Minister Wagner.

The SMC gathered expert reaction on the announcement.

Altogether Autism Rejects Measles Vaccine Myth

THE COUNTRY’S leading provider of trusted autism information and advice has come out strongly against claims of a link between vaccinations and autism in its latest Altogether Autism journal published today.

The journal says there is no causal relationship between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

National manager Catherine Trezona says Altogether Autism’s Professional Expert Group, which comprises a panel of professionals working in different fields around the country, was adamant it wanted the national autism organisation to take a stand.

“We got our researchers to go back and investigate the claims and they’ve published their findings in our journal,” she said.

“We also sought guidance from the Paediatric Society’s chair Dr David Newman who went further and said it is impossible that mercury in vaccines is in any way linked to the reported increase in autism diagnoses in New Zealand.”

Much of the controversy around MMR vaccine and autism followed the publication of a paper by now-discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield in 1998. He was subsequently struck off the UK medical register for his fraudulent paper.

“We are very concerned that despite very clear scientific evidence Wakefield’s assertions were wrong, the debate has started up again and our concern is parents may decide not to get their children vaccinated.

“Given there are new reports of a measles outbreak in Auckland, we feel it is absolutely imperative we make our position on this crystal clear,” said Trezona.

• Altogether Autism Journal Issue 1, 2017 read the latest edition.

Is a Sugar Tax the Best Solution to Obesity?

Is a Sugar Tax the Best Solution to Obesity?

Increased use of sugary food and drink plays a big role in New Zealand’s high obesity rate. It also contributes to other health problems, such as type two diabetes and dental issues.

Taxes on soft drinks have been implemented by some countries to help reduce obesity rates.

The effects that both added sugar and sugar in processed food and drinks are causing has gained more public interest and concern over the last few years, and when looking back over the last decade, the problem is getting worse, not better.

A tax such as a sugar tax is designed to discourage unhealthy behaviour. Much of the negativity around this form of tax has suggested that promoting positive behaviour has more impact, and that this tax removes freedom of choice.

Why soft drinks?
Considering the abundance of processed food, it has been asked why the focus is on just soft drinks. There are a couple of reasons given for this focus; Drinking is something we all do, and studies have found those who drink soft drinks tend to do so every day and not see consumption as ‘food’. Another reason is the volume of sugar in a single serve, and a serve without any nutritional benefits at all.

A 1% tax was added to soft drinks in Mexico in 2014 and although there are sceptics on its success, a study published in January in the British Medical Journal shows that sales of the taxed beverages in Mexico fell by an average of 6% in 2014.

Now UK
In 2016, the British government announced it would be adding a tax to soft drinks from 2018. The tax will be around 18 pence – 24 pence per litre (NZ 32-42 cents). In a further step to improve its citizen’s health, the income from the sugar tax will be spent on primary school sports.

What about NZ?
While medical experts in NZ are pushing for a similar tax in NZ, health minister Jonathan Coleman has no plans for implementing one, instead intending to wait for more evidence from countries such as Mexico.

Sugar provides calories, but has no nutritional benefit so there is no health benefit whatsoever in consuming it. It’s about taste and convenience, so regardless of any tax, it’s worth reducing intake, especially in products such as soft drinks.

Where does exercise fit?
One of the main fuel sources for exercise is glucose, which is stored sugar in our bodies. While reducing sugar intake is one part of the health equation, exercise can also assist by managing sugar levels as well as the countless other health benefits.
A sensible place to start is by combining a diet low in processed food and sugar, combined with regular activity as the path to long-term health.

For more advice and direction to improve your health talk to your registered exercise professional, as they can offer guidance and refer you to sources of information, and other nutritional professionals that you can trust.

Auckland scientists seek to shed light upon endometriosis

It affects at least one in ten New Zealand women, can cause severe abdominal pain and fertility problems, and costs the public health system an estimated $1 billion a year.

If you have endometriosis, or know someone who does, you will be familiar with its debilitating and distressing effects. March is Endometriosis Awareness month, but surprisingly little is known about the underlying causes of this chronic disease, in which pieces of endometrium, the innermost lining of the uterus, lodge and grow outside the uterus.

Treatments now in use are not effective for all women. Steroids, such as oral contraceptives, are the main treatment, but steroids are only successful for half of women who receive them, and those women generally develop resistance to their specific treatment.

Some women undergo laparoscopies (keyhole surgery) to remove the rogue endometrium and scar tissue, and some undergo entire removal of the uterus or ovaries. But even surgical treatments do not always prevent the tissue growing back elsewhere.

New Zealand research underway into the cause of endometriosis offers fresh hope for future treatments that target the disease at its roots.

Dr Anna Ponnampalam, a reproductive biologist at the Liggins Institute and the University of Auckland department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, suspects the cause partially lies in chemical changes to DNA that may lead the uterus lining to respond abnormally to the hormone progesterone.

“If we can figure out the exact molecular pathway behind endometriosis, and what triggers it, we will have a good chance of developing effective treatments,” says Dr Ponnampalam, who is conducting the study with Professor Cindy Farquhar from the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Dr Ponnampalam explains that usually oestrogen and progesterone work together to regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle.

“In the first half of the cycle, oestrogen primes the uterus lining to receive the progesterone, which in turn prepares it to accept an embryo if the woman gets pregnant. During the second half, even though there’s still some oestrogen around, progesterone dominates and mitigates the action of oestrogen.”

If the woman does not get pregnant, levels of both hormones fall and the endometrium sheds as a period.

“But in women with endometriosis, the lining responds differently to oestrogen, and progesterone doesn’t take over as it should – this is known as ‘progesterone resistance’.”

The researchers want to uncover how this develops at the molecular level. Their focus is on groups of small hydrocarbon molecules, called methyl groups, which they suspect are binding to DNA in affected women and switching particular genes on and off in a way that leads to progesterone resistance.

“Early data from my research and others’ show that many of the genes through which the steroid hormones act are abnormally methylated in the endometrium of women with this disease,” says Dr Ponnampalam.

“Chemical modulation of DNA by methylation is an epigenetic effect. Epigenetic effects do not change the underlying DNA sequence, but can be heritable.”

Researchers will collect endometrial samples from women with and without endometriosis, and hope to have early results next summer. The study is supported by a grant from the Auckland Medical Research Foundation.

Dr Ponnampalam is also keen to do a separate study to develop a new way of diagnosing endometriosis, which can currently be diagnosed only by laparoscopy, a keyhole surgery to visualise the endometrial tissues inside the abdomen.

“Because this is invasive, it puts some girls and women off,” she says.

Instead, she wants to search for a biological marker of endometriosis – molecules present in the menstrual blood of only women with endometriosis.

Internationally, the average delay before diagnosis is 8-11 years, and experts believe the actual incidence of the disease is far higher than the numbers diagnosed – which are around 120,000 women in New Zealand, and 176 million worldwide.

“This is also partly because period pain is viewed as normal, and so girls and women who complain of it are often not taken seriously.”

Exercise improves quality of life for children with autism

Study shows exercise improves quality of life for children with autism

New research has found that regular exercise improves communication behaviours among children with autism.

The findings are the result of a four-month collaborative study between researchers from Achilles International and the New York Medical College, funded by the Cigna Foundation in America.

The study measured the effect of the Achilles Kids running programme, with 94 students with autism across five schools taking part. It assessed restrictive and repetitive behaviours, social interaction and communication, emotional response and cognitive style. The research found that regular exercise helped improve the students overall quality of life – helping them engage in everyday social situations, reducing their anxiety and in turn improving their peers acceptance and inclusion.

“The results are extremely encouraging as millions of parents, caregivers and medical professionals grapple with how to best support children on the autism spectrum,” says Jo Walker, Chair of Achilles New Zealand.

Wellington mother Elizabeth Abbey can further validates the findings. Her son Ethan, who has Asperger’s syndrome, runs with Achilles.

“Exercise has been an integral part of Ethan’s life. We were adamant that his disability wouldn’t impact on his quality of life and from a young age we made sure he was very active, regularly running, swimming and hiking.

“As he got older we noticed that after a run he was calmer, less anxious and more lucid in his conversation. He even said he felt better,” says Elizabeth.

Following the death of Ethan’s father last year Elizabeth knew she needed to keep him running. Alongside other networks Ethan is involved with Achilles seemed tailor made for their needs.

“The fortnightly runs fulfil much of the role his father did – the guides are young, active and like-minded and offer a community and support network that enables Ethan to run longer distances regularly which really help him.”

The support offered by Achilles meant that Ethan was able to take part in this year’s Cigna Round the Bays – an event he has taken part in every year since he first ran it with his father in 1991.

Dane Dougan, Chief Executive Autism New Zealand, says it is interesting to see the positive results of the research. “What works for one person with autism may not necessarily work for another. However, these findings show the benefit of building exercise into a daily routine and how it can positively help people with autism live to their full potential.

“As an evidence based organisation it is great to see this type of research being undertaken. With autism affecting roughly 1 in 70 New Zealanders there is a lot that we can learn from these findings to help create change in a positive way.”

In America the Achilles Kids school-based running curriculum helps adaptive physical education teachers—whose students include children with autism—implement a running-based program in their schools. The students are given the goal of running 26.2 miles—the marathon distance—in a school year.

The school-based study was funded by World of Difference grants given to Achilles in 2014 and 2015 by long-time partner Cigna Foundation. Existing literature on this topic often examined small sample sizes or community-based programs, and so the Achilles and NYMC teams sought to quantifying extensive anecdotal evidence observed by Achilles showing physical, social, emotional and academic improvement in children with autism spectrum disorder who regularly ran with their program as part of their school day.

The study was released late last year at the Academy of Paediatric Physical Therapy’s Section on Paediatrics Annual Conference (SoPAC). A copy of the research is available on request.

For more information about Achilles New Zealand visit and watch a video showing the Achilles team at Cigna Round the Bays and what it meant for them to be part of the event.

HEARING WEEK – Impact of hearing loss

11year old leapt over chairs to see granddad’s ears!

It’s never easy to put into words the miracle of sound recovered. Yet, I saw it first hand recently when my husband got hearing aids. The most poignant response was from our 11 year old granddaughter who suddenly observed at a family dinner that grandad was laughing and talking with everyone once again. She then leapt over the chairs, to flip grandad’s ear forward and delightedly announced to the room “Grandad’s wearing hearing aids”.

As his wife I was noticing that my husband was no longer engaged but, imagine how a child, such as Miss 11 years, feels watching a beloved grandparent disappear into their own world.
The benefits of having a hearing test are felt through many generations all at once!

Are you one of the 880,350 people that are affected by hearing loss?

We know the huge impact hearing loss has on families and the person with it. The feeling of exclusion, isolation, loneliness and depression are just some of the emotions families and friends can see their love ones go through.
On top of this lies another significant problem, how does hearing loss actually affect our population as a whole and our economy?

The new “Listen Hear! New Zealand’ report reveals the financial and social impact of hearing loss on New Zealand. The key findings are:

• hearing loss is a significant issue facing the New Zealand population as 880,350 people in New Zealand now live with some type of hearing loss, representing 18.9% of the population

• the health sector costs were estimated at $131.8 million
• the total loss of tax revenue was estimated to be $254.6 million
• hearing loss cost the New Zealand economy $957.3 million

• the net value of lost well-being and social impact were estimated at $3.9 billion

• The total cost of hearing loss was estimated at $4.9 billion

Top 6 Mistakes To Avoid for Those New to Exercise

MEDIA RELEASE: For Immediate Release
FROM: The New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)

Whether you are setting out on an exercise programme after a long break, or if exercising is completely new, you should feel proud that you are making one of the best decisions to improve your health and wellbeing.

Starting out is exciting but can be a bit daunting too. Will it be hard? How will you keep up?

Rest assured, even the fittest people started somewhere and felt just like you. To make getting started easier, here are some of the top mistakes or misconceptions that new exercisers make; so you don’t make them.

1. Starting out too fast
When your body is used to doing less, adding more physical activity is going to make you tired and perhaps cause some temporary muscles aches. Exercise doesn’t have to be hard every time. So start out gently and aim for regularity in your exercise to get improvements over time without burning out.

2. Thinking it’s too hard
It takes a bit of effort at the start, and that’s partly because you need to build up your fitness, and also because starting anything new takes some getting used to. The best way to increase your physical fitness levels and wellness is to keep exercising. If you challenge yourself you may find it tough at times, but that doesn’t mean you should stop. It means you should congratulate yourself for an awesome effort and keep at it.

3. Not getting enough rest
Rest days are an important part of a regular exercise programme. New exercisers can often find something they love and then do it every day which leads to fatigue and potentially injury. Rest does not have to mean lying on the sofa watching Netflix. A walk, a yoga class or something else less structured can act as active rest.

4. Not eating for exercise
Improving your physical fitness and wellness is not just about what you do, but what you eat as well. A well balanced diet will contribute to your exercise goals and give you the energy needed to keep up your routine. The saying goes that you ‘can’t out exercise a bad diet’; just because you are exercising more does not mean you can eat more, especially calorie dense treats.

5. Giving up too soon
It takes time to get results from any exercise programme. You won’t be doubling your weights or dropping a clothing size straight away. It’s not just doing irregular exercise that gets you fit and healthier, but doing regular exercise is the key.
Exercise testing to see where you are now may not sound like too much fun, but knowing where you are now means you can get re tested in a few months and see how much progress you have made.

Taking some time to set some goals for what you are hoping to achieve and what barriers there are that may prevent you reaching them can also help you plan for success.
Don’t forget, exercise is not just about the physical changes to your body. Exercise also provides a significant wealth of benefit to your mental health and wellness which is crucial for the busy lives we all live.

6. Not getting the right advice
There is nothing more disappointing than spending money and investing time and energy into a get fit quick programme only to find it’s not achievable or sustainable, or isn’t getting you the promised results. Choose an exercise professional who is qualified, experienced and relates to you as a someone getting started into exercise. The NZ Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) has a handy search function on their website to find an exercise professional or facility in your area

$80,000 For Heart Kids NZ, Thanks to Bartercard Foundation

The Bartercard Foundation is delighted to announce its partnership with Heart Kids NZ, the only not-for-profit organisation supporting Kiwi kids and their families who are affected by Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), right through their life.

Each week, 12 babies across New Zealand are born with a heart defect. While there are surgical procedures that can improve the heart’s function, there is no cure for CHD.

Heart Kids NZ receives no government funding, has no affiliation with the Heart Foundation and must fundraise for all of its services. The Bartercard Foundation is thrilled to be able to step in and help support those fundraising efforts.

And it has wasted no time in raising funds. Already more than $80,000 trade dollars have been raised – $32,000 trade dollars of it in just one day, thanks to a fundraising event which encouraged Bartercard members to ‘Gift a gift of giving at Christmas’ to friends and family in lieu of a physical gift.

It’s not just donations the Foundation is looking to assist with. It is also keen to get involved in events around the country, all of which will be advertised on the Heart Kids website throughout the year.

The Bartercard Foundation is made up of three trustees who oversee its operation, on a voluntary, unpaid basis. They are Raymond Goubitz, Bartercard Trustee, Ted Midlane from Legal Consultants Ltd and the recently appointed Carmel Clark from Telephone Market Research.

Raymond Goubitz says: “The Trustees of the Bartercard Foundation are delighted to support Heart Kids with the valuable support services they provide to the families of Heart Children. Using Bartercard Trade Dollars, the Foundation will assist their cashflow and help raise their profile. We’re thrilled by the initial support of our member community and their generosity – it goes to show what can be raised in just a day for something so worthy.”

He adds: “The Bartercard Foundation chose to collaborate with Heart Kids after consideration of many different charities which do not receive government support. It was felt Heart Kids were best placed to utilise Trade Dollars to assist them in achieving their objectives for the forthcoming year.”

If you would like to donate to Heart Kids, go to or visit to find out more about this worthy cause. For more information on Bartercard and its services visit:

The Bartercard Foundation was established in April 2010 and is a registered charity to support charities which require wider national prominence for their great cause. 100% of the donations raised go to the chosen charity. Unlike most other charities which aim to pass on 80% of their donations with 20% covering expenses and other costs, all of the Foundation’s operating costs are paid for by Bartercard. These costs are increasing due to additional financial reporting obligations and information required to be supplied to the Charities Commission.

Healthy lunch boosts productivity, research finds

Warding off a mid-afternoon slump at work could be as easy as eating a healthy lunch, according to the results of a recent 5+ A Day survey.

The survey on consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in the workplace found 72 percent of workers felt more productive in the afternoon after eating a healthy lunch rather than something high in fat or sugar.

Almost half (46 percent) of workers reported eating fruit at work at least once a day. And when it comes to taking homemade lunch to work, 85 percent of those surveyed include fruit and vegetables.

It seems fruit has a feel-good factor for workers, with 69 percent of respondents reporting they would feel positively towards their employer if fresh fruit was available to them. Yet, the majority of those surveyed (65 percent) said their employers did not provide fruit or make it available to them at work.

In addition, 64 percent of those surveyed said they would take part in a healthy eating challenge if it was organised by their employer.

Anna Sloan, dietitian at Nutrition Connection says eating fruit daily provides immunity-boosting vitamins and is a nutrient dense source of energy.

“Fruit and vegetables have powerful antioxidants that supplements can’t mimic,” she says. “Fruit as a snack doesn’t give the same energy slump that snacks like chocolate or lollies do. In fact, bananas release a compound that gives the same good feelings in the brain that chocolate does, and apples are a more effective wake up food than coffee.”Anna says other fruit is just as good for providing a sweet, healthy treat to make you more productive with better levels of energy.

The results are from a survey of 368 people nationwide, conducted by Nielsen in November. It forms part of 5+ A Day’s ongoing research into the eating habits of New Zealanders when it comes to fruit and vegetables.

Healthy workplace lunch tips

For optimal health we should strive to eat five or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. As a guide, a serving is about a handful. A great tasting healthy lunch doesn’t have to be expensive if you plan ahead and buy seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. Here are some tips:

Snack ideas

• Freeze a bunch of grapes and place in your lunchbox in the morning, not only does it bring out the sweetness but it also keeps other food fresh.

• Fruit – whole fruit, or try berries and sliced summer fruit mixed through yoghurt.

• Vegetables – sliced carrots, cucumber, celery and capsicum with a low-fat dip. Try homemade salsa (tomato, red onion, avocado, coriander and lime juice) or natural yoghurt mixed with lemon juice, cucumber and a little crushed garlic.

• Crackers with avocado, tomato salsa and light cottage cheese.

Summer lunches

• Tomato, basil and feta bruschetta. Pack the bread and topping in separate containers and build at work for maximum freshness.

• Fruit salad – use any fruit in season. Lemon juice squeezed over chopped fruit will prevent it turning brown and will give it a nice tang.

• Green salads – mix salad greens with seasonal vegetables such as asparagus, tomatoes and cucumber. Dress with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

• Coleslaw – shred cabbage, carrot, a little red onion and add parsley. Mix through a dressing made with plain yoghurt, lemon juice, mustard and a little olive oil.

Sandwich fillings

• Spread avocado on your sandwich instead of butter or mayo and make your sandwich instantly healthier.

• Take vegetables in a container and put your sandwich together at work to prevent it getting soggy.

• Pack wholegrain pita, naan, bagels or wraps with all your favourite shredded vegetables mixed together with a diced boiled egg.

• Roast vegetables the night before to make tasty sandwiches. Roasted mushrooms, red capsicum and eggplant are great in sandwiches or wraps.

• Load up sandwiches or wraps with some or all of the following: grated carrot, capsicum, sliced cucumber, mushroom, tomato and spinach, avocado, lettuce or beetroot.

Warning of back-to-school spike in asthma

Warning of back-to-school spike in asthma

A spike in asthma hospitalisations when children return to school has prompted a warning for parents, caregivers and schools to be prepared.

“Asthma attacks are particularly common for children when going back to school, especially following the long summer holiday,” says Teresa Demetriou from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ.

Studies have shown that viral infections are likely to be the main cause in the spike of asthma hospitalisations. Other causes include less strict asthma management over the holidays, a change in environment with greater exposure to allergens, and a change in emotions such as stress and anxiety.

Parents are urged to take preventative measures. “The best thing to do is be as prepared as possible,” says Teresa Demetriou of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ.

“Asthma Action Plans need to be provided to schools along with updated emergency contact details. Children need to be taking their preventer medication as prescribed if they have one, and bring their reliever inhaler to school.”

“Make sure your child knows what their triggers are so they can do their best to avoid them. It’s important to reduce exposure to germs, which includes washing hands with soap as needed. We also highly recommend all families with asthma to get their flu vaccination in March,” says Demetriou.

Jackie Hartley, mother of 10-year-old Mayim who has chronic lung disease says, “Having a support network is really important. Mayim’s family, friends and teachers know what he’s like and keep an eye on him. They know what symptoms to look out for and when to get help.”

In 2013, there were 3730 hospitalisations for children in New Zealand under the age of 15 years old.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ has a free school asthma checklist to download on their website at:

Go Low This Summer

Thin, watery and tasteless – that’s what low-alcohol beer used to be.

But not anymore. The Go Low Action Group is challenging misconceptions about low-alcohol beer, urging Kiwis who haven’t already, to give it a try this summer.

Go Low head Bruce Robertson said it was understandable that Kiwis might still turn their noses up at low-alcohol beer (less than 3% alcohol-by-volume).

“Let’s be honest, back in the day it was pretty dreadful stuff. There’s probably still a hangover from that, when it was the butt of jokes.

“Thankfully a number of New Zealand brewers have recognised that and are producing amazing low-alcohol beers that don’t compromise on all-important taste.

“We’re encouraging people who haven’t tried a ‘new generation’ low-alcohol beer to give it a go. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised.”

Low-alcohol beers were notable winners at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand 2016 Beer Awards in October, outperforming their full-strength counterparts in two categories. DB Breweries’ Heineken Light was awarded the top award for best international lager while Croucher Brewing’s 2.5% low-alcohol Lowrider earned the Rotorua operation the trophy for best specialty beer.

As well as encouraging beer drinkers to try going low, the action group is also working with hospitality groups to promote low-alcohol options to patrons.

“Anyone hosting events throughout summer and beyond, businesses putting on staff barbeques and parties – we’d urge them to make sure they’re providing low-alcohol, as well as no-alcohol, options for people to enjoy.

“Moderation, responsibility and sociability – that’s what it’s all about,” says Robertson.

Making New Year’s resolutions stick

New Zealand’s leading exercise industry group ExerciseNZ has today appealed to Kiwis to make increased physical activity their resolution for 2017 but it also warned that keeping resolutions isn’t easy and is offering tips on how to make them stick.

Fifty percent of people who start an exercise regime are likely to drop out within the first six months and more than 90 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions give them up after just a few months.

ExerciseNZ chief Richard Beddie says exercise professionals are well equipped with the knowledge and skills to help people keep their resolutions as motivating others to set goals and stick to them is core to their business.

“We want people to succeed at kick starting and sticking to their resolutions. Exercise professionals thrive on watching people achieve their goals, especially when that goal helps to improve someone’s quality of life.

“For New Zealander’s who are already seeing their resolution fade out of sight in just the second week of the year, don’t give up. There are proven techniques to help you achieve your exercise goals that you can adopt and refer to throughout the year to help make that resolution stick.”

ExerciseNZ has offered tips to help make exercise resolutions stick:

  • Work out with a friend – exercising with a friend or significant other who encourages your efforts will help you succeed
  • Get expert advice from a registered professional – exercise professionals can tailor a programme to meet your needs and encourage you to strive to improve
  • Make it social by taking part in class or group activities – group exercise classes provide a variety of formats for all levels and the added motivation of an instructor
  • Plan for success by setting realistic goals – you are more likely to adhere to an exercise programme if you believe you will succeed
  • Do something you enjoy – people have different needs and get enjoyment out of different levels of physical activity. Work within your limits and make being active a part of everyday life

Women are encouraged to go public with their resolution by sharing it with family, friends and colleagues and asking them to provide a little motivational nudge every now and then.

Men are more likely to succeed if they imagine how improved life will be for themselves and the people around them once they achieve their resolution. Exercising in a social setting has more motivational impact for single people than those who are married or have a partner.

The Ministry of Health recommends adults should take part in moderate intensity activities for at least two and half hours a week or five hours for added health benefits. They also recommend muscle strengthening activities on at least two days of the week.

ExerciseNZ recommends the use of registered exercise professionals to be most successful in adopting and maintaining exercise regimes. NZ Register of Exercise Professionals:

Your kids are sweet enough – hold those sugary drinks

The Public Health Association of New Zealand is right behind the new Consensus Statement on sugary drinks being launched today at Brooklyn School by the New Zealand Dental Association.

Warren Lindberg, Public Health Association CEO, says all New Zealanders should know that children get a quarter of their daily sugar intake from sugary drinks.

“We know there’s a strong association between sugar consumption and both dental caries and obesity. One third of Kiwi children are overweight, and 29,000 children under the age of 14 had teeth removed in 2014/15 due to tooth decay”.

An average can of fizzy drink contains about nine teaspoons of sugar; the WHO recommends a daily maximum intake of nine teaspoons for kids.

The CEO of the Public Health Association, Warren Lindberg, said, “The new Consensus Statement, being launched today, rightly targets the fact that few of us have any idea of how much sugar is contained in our food and drink – and that technical measures in grams per millilitre are not much help for families”.

“There is no longer an argument about the health problems associated with obesity and oral health – especially in children”, says Lindberg. “Sugary drinks which have no health value are an obvious target for change.“

The PHA strongly supports the New Zealand Dental Association’s call for action to reduce harm caused by excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

“We value the Dental Association’s leadership on this issues, and we’re proud to be joining with a dozen national organisations to issue this shared call to action.”

New Pharmac Funded Drug to Benefit Maori

Māori will benefit from Pharmac’s decision to fund a new medicine that combats HIV, an advocate for Māori living with the life-threatening disease says.

Marama Pala, an advocate for Māori living with HIV

Pala, 45, was diagnosed with HIV in 1993 when she was 22, and is the first Māori woman to announce her HIV positive status. She serves on a number of international organisations advocating rights and support for indigenous peoples living with HIV, and is the executive director of INA, (Māori, Indigenous & South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation.

Māori are often diagnosed with HIV in the later stages of infection, making up 40 per cent of ‘late’ diagnoses in New Zealand, Pala said.

“Māori are less likely to access testing regularly. There are high healthcare disparities and ongoing social health determinants that lead to less-vigorous healthcare for Māori,” she says.

Pala says the stigma attached to the disease, discrimination and a lack of education within Māori rural communities were also contributing factors on late detection in Māori.

“In some areas people still believe prostitution is illegal and being gay is still a jailable offence. So many Māori are diagnosed in the later stages of infection.”

While deaths from HIV have declined dramatically due to ever-improving treatment and access to medical care, infection rates are on the increase, according to sexual health physician Dr Rick Franklin.

Last year 224 new cases of HIV were detected in New Zealand. The majority of those infections (153) were contracted by men who have sex with men (MSM). The number of new infections has increased every year since 2011.

Without treatment, HIV destroys the body’s immune defences resulting in AIDS and reduced life expectancy.

While prevention would always be the most important factor in tackling HIV, new medications mean people diagnosed with HIV now have relatively normal lifespans.

From November 1, Pharmac has funded Tivicay (dolutegravir), a HIV medicine from the integrase inhibitor class that blocks the HIV virus from spreading through the immune system.2

Pala says: “Tivicay will provide another option for people living with HIV in our country. Having more treatments available for New Zealanders is always a bonus” she says

Report calls for life-saving reforms to help smokers quit


28 NOVEMBER 2016

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance and MyChoice Australiahave jointly launched a report calling for the governments on both sides of the Tasman to legalise, and lightly regulate new technologies to help smokers quit.

The report, E-cigarettes: Reducing the Harm of Smoking, is available to view and download from

“E-cigarettes provide a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes and mean smokers are not forced to be the Government’s cash cows” said Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union. “While the New Zealand Government is well ahead of Australia in terms of moves to legalise the technology, suggestions that it should be taxed like traditional cigarettes would undermine the very benefits the new technologies offer.”

“These products offer the only real pathway to the Government’s aspiration of a Smokefree New Zealand by 2025. If governments tax next-generation smoking technologies like they do traditional cigarettes, they will be effectively choosing the tax revenue over saving lives.”

Lara Jeffery, Director of MyChoice Australia, said “The evidence is overwhelming: vaping technologies will save millions of lives.”

“Millions of smokers worldwide have quit smoking because of this technology, and it is now the most popular way for smokers to quit in countries such as the United Kingdom. Public health experts worldwide have praised it as being ‘at least 95 percent’ safer than smoking. It is time for our regulations to catch up to the times and encourage this life saving technology” concluded Ms Jeffery.

Six-hour hospital target associated with fewer deaths

Six-hour hospital target associated with fewer deaths in emergency departments

New research shows that New Zealand’s six-hour emergency department target was associated with a reduction in crowding in emergency departments by half.

The target – which aims to limit the amount of time people stay in hospital emergency departments – was also associated with hundreds of fewer patients dying, compared to what was predicted if pre-target trends had continued.

Director of Emergency Medicine at Auckland City Hospital, Dr Peter Jones, and University of Auckland researcher Linda Chalmers co-led an investigation into the effects of the mandatory six-hour national target on patient outcomes with the support of a $1.1 million project grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).

The study examined various indicators of quality of patient care in 18 of New Zealand’s 20 district health boards (DHBs) over a period of seven years (2006–2012), and included an in-depth investigation of four hospitals.

“We found that the introduction of the six-hour target was associated with a substantial 50 per cent reduction in the number of patient deaths in emergency departments,” said Dr Jones, “That’s about 700 fewer deaths than predicted if pre-target trends had continued. This result mirrors the 50 per cent reduction in emergency department crowding,”

“There was also no increase in deaths on the wards, so there was no evidence that the observed reduction was due to ‘shifting’ deaths to elsewhere in the system.”

Dr Jones will be exploring the results of the survey in more depth in his presentation ‘How did ED length-of-stay patterns change as a consequence of the ED target implementation, and why?’ at 2.45pm on Thursday 24 November.

Look after yourselves and each other

Through the earthquakes and aftershocks, look after yourselves and each other

Now is the time to look after each other as the Hanmer earthquakes affect different people in different ways.

Public Health Specialist Dr Lucy D’Aeth, Chair of the Greater Christchurch Psychosocial Committee says particularly in the North Canterbury areas around Hanmer, Kaikoura and Waiau there are people cut off in towns with broken homes, without power and water.

“For the most affected communities, the priorities are the most basic things – sharing clean water, food, and checking in on neighbours. There will be those who need support to dig a long-drop/outside toilet, or tidy up damaged properties.

“Helping others and giving your time can make a big difference, whether it’s helping someone with a big clean up job or spending time talking to people about how they are doing,” says Dr D’Aeth.

It’s normal to feel a range of emotions, so expect those around you to be coping differently, she says.

“Our brains react chemically to earthquakes – releasing adrenaline which can cause us to feel shaky, queasy or on-edge and make it hard for us to concentrate. This response is our body’s alarm system – it is your body telling you to be alert and ready for action.

“These emotions should calm – but they can take longer to do so if the aftershocks continue for some time.”

There are things you can do to help you feel better. Although it is difficult, try and keep your routine as normal as you can – especially when around children who will take their lead from you.As part of the response to these earthquakes, additional staff have been rostered on to the Canterbury Support Line following last night’s 7.5 quake.

The free phone line (0800 777 846) is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can arrange appropriate support for people affected by the earthquake.

Public Health Information for Hurunui and Kaikoura residents:
Your council will be advising whether you need to boil or treat water from taps and tankers before drinking, brushing teeth or using in food preparation. Bringing water to the boil is sufficient to kill bugs. Water needs to be boiled even if the smell or taste of chlorine is present. If you cannot boil water, treat it by adding 1 teaspoon of household bleach per 10 litres of water and leave for 30 minutes (i.e just under 1/4 tsp of bleach for a two litre container)
Waterways may be contaminated with sewage. Avoid contact with rivers, sea water, ponds, puddles or other surface water. Do not swim, paddle, fish, or gather shellfish or any other food from oceans and rivers.
If your toilet is not working bury human waste (faeces, poo, vomit etc) in your garden or wrap it well in paper or plastic and put it in your red bin for collection. Add some sawdust or kitty-litter to neutralise odour. Wash your hands immediately after dealing with any human waste. See Disposing of Sewagebelow.
Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser after toileting, and before and after eating or preparing food.
If you are sick, try to limit contact with other people, do not go to work and do not prepare food for anyone. Call your GP if you require medical attention. It is important you address your health concerns early with your general practice team. If it’s an emergency call 111.
Take care with food – if there have been extended power cuts, use chilled food first, then frozen, then canned, and lastly packaged food. If unsure about the safety of food due to lack of chilled or frozen storage, do not eat it.


Toilet systems are likely to be affected by a disaster through broken pipes, flooding of the sewerage system, or breakdown of the pumping machinery.
Human waste can spread disease.
During an emergency
You may need a makeshift toilet if your toilet cannot be used. Avoid overflows, flooding or ponding caused by broken sewerage lines, and contact your local council, public health unit or civil defence sector post for advice on diverting overflowing sewerage.
How to make a temporary toilet
• If your toilet is still intact, put a strong plastic bag under your toilet seat to collect waste, alternatively line a bucket or rubbish bin with a strong, leak-proof plastic bag.
• Put half a cup of liquid bleach in the bag.
• Make a seat from two planks of wood or use a toilet seat on top of the container.
• Keep the bin completely covered when not in use, to prevent attracting flies.
• Tie the top of the bag firmly when full and place it inside another bag.
• Dig a hole well away from the vegetable garden and downhill from any water source and bury the bag.
• Make sure the bag is well covered with dirt.
• Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet or handling human waste.
How to make a long-drop toilet
• Dig a hole up to one metre deep well away from the vegetable garden and any water source.
• Make a seat out of planks of wood.
• Cover the waste properly with dirt after each use.
• Throw in a little garden lime, insecticide or disinfectant to reduce smells and flies.
• Use the long-drop until it is full to within 300mm of ground level.
• Cover completely with soil and dig a new long-drop.
• Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet or handling human waste.
From the Ministry of Health resource “Protecting Your Health in an Emergency”.

New Zealand is on the verge of a melanoma epidemic

New Zealand is on the verge of a melanoma epidemic, experts warn.

With already the highest incidence rate in the world it is predicted numbers could increase by 50% in the next two decades, particularly in older adults.

Monday 14 November: Today marks the start of Melanoma Awareness Week and Melanoma New Zealand is urging Kiwis to support the cause by making a donation and to monitor their skin and get checked to ensure early detection.

Melanoma is the highest registered cancer among men aged 25-44, and the second highest in women of the same age group, with 356 deaths each year.[1] Over the next two decades melanoma rates are predicted to skyrocket with an expected 50 percent increase in the number of New Zealanders diagnosed with the deadly disease[2].

Melanoma New Zealand CEO, Linda Flay says unlike other health epidemics, such as obesity, that are complex to solve, melanoma is a mainly preventable and a highly treatable disease if caught early.

“The theme of our campaign is Become a Lifesaver.  This is because every day Kiwis have the power to save a life – be it their own, a family member or friend’s – by being sun smart and with early detection through skin checks and self-assessment.”

“We are seeing too many New Zealanders suffer the consequences of melanoma, even though we have the power to put a stop to it ourselves. We are asking Kiwis to be generous and donate to Melanoma New Zealand to help us educate and implement programmes to put an end to this potentially fatal disease,” Ms Flay says.

Regional data shows the rates of melanoma are highest in the Taranaki district with other hotspots including Hawke’s Bay, central North Island and the West Coast of the South Island. North Otago also shows high rates in Oamaru[3].

Ms Flay says many New Zealanders are not aware of the very real risks they face in their own backyard and perhaps our “she’ll be right” attitude has contributed to New Zealand having the highest incidence rate of melanoma in the world.

“While we all love getting out in the sunshine, we have to ensure we protect ourselves from New Zealand’s harsh UV rays. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our beautiful outdoors, but it does mean we should be wearing a hat, sunglasses and long sleeves, and using sunscreen if we’re spending time in the sun.”

This year Melanoma New Zealand has proudly partnered with three celebrity ambassadors who have been personally touched by the disease.

The ambassadors include Olympic sailing gold medallist and Emirates Team NZ crew member Blair Tuke and former Silver-Fern Adine Wilson, who had her own battle with the disease. Acclaimed celebrity chef Josh Emett, who tragically lost his father to the disease, is also getting behind the cause.

“When my father Roger was diagnosed with melanoma, he was a fit and healthy guy. He was always wary of getting his skin checked, but by the time they found it under his thick head of hair it was quite advanced,” Josh says.

“It’s one of those things that if you get it early, you can treat it and carry on living your life. Skin checks need to be a regular thing, like going to the dentist. It’s just not worth it to put it off.”

Melanoma diagnosed in its early stage can be successfully treated by surgery.

TXT 2448 to donate $3 and go to for a list of skin check providers in your area.

Get behind Melanoma Awareness Week (14-21 Nov) and change your Facebook profile picture to show your support.


Fact sheet
·         New Zealand has the highest per capita rates of invasive melanoma in the world
·         The majority of melanomas are preventable
·         Melanoma is caused by too much UV radiation either from the sun or artificial sources
·         Currently, melanoma is the highest registered cancer in men aged 25-44
·         70% of melanoma cases occur in people aged 50yrs and older
·         Over 300 Kiwis die each year from melanoma.
·         Death rates are higher among men
·         The chance of developing melanoma increases with age
Anyone in New Zealand can get melanoma
·         Factors that may contribute to melanoma, include:
·         Skin damage due to sunburn
·         Skin type that burns easily
·         Sunbed use
·         Many moles and larger moles
·         A personal or family history of melanoma
·         Fair skin
·         Red, blonde or fair hair

Hope to beleaguered mental health services and its patients

Lucky to be alive champion brings hope to beleaguered mental health services and people using those services

Media Release 1st November 2016

By any standard Ron Coleman is lucky to be alive. He has survived juvenile sexual abuse, 13 years of severe mental illness, early onset type 2 diabetes, heart by-pass surgery 11 years ago, and two heart attacks this year alone. But the tenacious Scot refuses to become another of the survivors of mental illness who succumb long before their time. He has work to do and yesterday began a tour of New Zealand delivering the seven Hearing Voices training sessions he and his wife Karen Taylor have been planning during his recovery from his last heart attack.

It is an unacceptable fact that people who experience serious mental illness have a much lower life expectancy than those who don’t. A prime cause of the physical ravages that shorten those lives is the potent anti-psychotic medication that is prescribed with the intention of suppressing the audible hallucinations or voices that people experience. For 25 years Ron Coleman has been educating people that it doesn’t have to be like this. His approach, which is now shared by thousands of voice hearers around the world, involves accepting the voices, questioning them, understanding where they come from and learning to manage and live with them. He acknowledges that medication can help but it is not the only answer and it brings serious side effects with it which he knows too well.

Ron Coleman is a respected leader of the international hearing voices movement that has burgeoned in Europe, Australia and the United States in recent years. It is also attracting recognition in mainstream mental health services in New Zealand with a number of DHBs in New Zealand now introducing voices awareness training to their staff. In 2002 Ron and Karen formed their own company, Working to Recovery, and since then have travelled the world delivering highly effective training to both people who hear voices and professionals who work with them. In recent years they have developed recovery houses in the UK, Italy and Australia, with plans to establish one in New Zealand soon. Recovery houses enable people to spend a longer period of time in a safe and supportive environment focussing on their own recovery using the skills and techniques that are taught in the Working with Voices workshops.

This is not Ron and Karen’s first visit to New Zealand – the last was in 2011 – but organisers of this tour, Adrienne Giacon of Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa and Lisa Archibald of Kapiti’s Te Ara Korowai peer advocacy and support service, believe that the nationwide training will provide the opportunity to effect a long anticipated step forward for mental health services here.

Says Adrienne, “We have block bookings on this tour for staff from regional branches of large mental health NGO providers. With an increasing number of professionals learning these skills we really hope there will be a lasting effect of improved service for voice hearers.” Lisa adds, “The uniqueness of this training is that in most of the workshops, people who hear voices will be learning alongside professionals that work with them. This will help break down the “us and them” demarcation that has for too long existed in mental health services.”

With continued good luck (!) Ron and Karen will be available for interviews during their tour which started in Whangarei yesterday with a sold out attendance. They are presently in Auckland, then travel to Christchurch, Palmerston North and Wellington before returning to Auckland for a final workshop on 18th November.

Remember food safety at home during the warmer weather

MPI Media release

Remember food safety at home during the warmer weather

2 November 2016

With summer fast approaching and warmer weather already here, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) recommends a few simple steps to reduce our chances of getting sick from food prepared at home.

MPI’s Public Health Medicine Specialist Dr Donald Campbell says foodborne illness trends show that more people get sick from food over summer than at any other time of the year.

“Bacteria grow faster in the warm moist conditions of the summer months, so can be present in higher numbers than we’re used to in raw foods.

“Over summer we are more likely to be eating raw foods like salads and seasonal summer fruits. We recommend washing all fruit and vegetables before eating them raw,” says Dr Campbell.

We also tend to do more cooking or preparing of food outside at picnics, barbeques and on camping trips, which means foods might be out of the fridge for longer than usual.

“Delicious, nutritious food is one of the great things in life. There’s nothing better than a fantastic meal with family and friends. But there’s also nothing worse than that same food causing days of misery thanks to it being contaminated by harmful bugs (bacteria, viruses and other organisms that can cause illness),” he says

Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of you, your family or friends having a nasty foodborne illness by following simple food safety steps:

• Begin with clean hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap and dry your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling all food, including fresh produce.

• Remember the 4Cs (Clean, Cook, Cover, Chill) can help keep harmful bugs at bay.

• Barbeque safely by precooking chicken, sausages and minced meat, then barbecue until meat is steaming hot (over 75 degrees Celsius) all the way through.

• Washing fresh produce under running water is an important part of ensuring your favourite fruits and veges are safe to consume.

• Many precut, bagged fresh produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If the package label indicates the contents have been pre-washed, you do not need to wash it again.

• Cooking destroys harmful bugs. Cooking some specific higher risk foods, like bean sprouts and frozen imported berries for instance, will help keep you safe. Some consumers wish to eat these products without cooking though, and need to understand there is a risk in doing so.

For more information on food safety in the home, visit