All people have the opportunity to enjoy long and healthy lives. Avoidable deaths,
disease and injuries are prevented. All people have the ability to function,
participate and live independently or appropriately supported in society.
Good health is critical to wellbeing. Without good health, people are
less able to enjoy their lives to the fullest extent, their options are limited
and their general levels of contentment and happiness are likely to be reduced.
Good health has two core dimensions: how long people live and the quality
of their lives. The desired outcomes recognise both aspects. As well as enjoying
long lives, people want to be free from the pain, suffering and incapacity
that injury and illness bring.
The desired outcomes also acknowledge that not all people can live fully
independent lives. For some, illness or disability means they need support
from families, government agencies or other networks to overcome barriers to
their participation in society. Getting this support is an important part of
People with injuries or illness (both mental and physical) may experience
barriers to their participation in education, training and employment, leading
to reduced economic standards of living. These barriers can also reduce people’s
ability to participate in other areas of life, such as family life, socialising
with friends, joining community activities and taking part in recreation and
leisure pursuits, which can lead to feelings of frustration and isolation.
A range of factors affect and are affected by health outcomes, including
genetic predisposition, behaviour, the physical and social environment and
the availability of health services. Increasing attention is being paid to
the interaction between socio-economic and health outcomes. People with low
incomes, poor housing and few qualifications are likely to have disproportionately
Five indicators are used in this chapter.
Taken together, they provide an overall picture of the current state of the
nation’s health and the likely trends in the future. They cover both the
length and quality of life and include both physical and mental health. The
indicators are: health expectancy, life expectancy, suicide, the prevalence
smoking and obesity.
The first three indicators are relevant to the current state of the nation’s
health. Together, they directly measure the desired outcomes relating to long
and healthy lives, and people’s ability to participate in society. The last
two indicators are strong predictors of future health outcomes.
Health expectancy refers to the number of years a person can expect to
live independently, ie free of any functional limitation requiring the assistance
of another person or complex assistive device. This is a summary measure of
population health integrating both fatal (life expectancy) and non-fatal (disability
requiring assistance) health outcomes.
The next indicator, life expectancy, measures the survival experience
of the population: how long people live. It is an indicator of fatal health
The suicide rate serves as a proxy for the mental health status and social
wellbeing of the population. Though the indicator covers the suicide rate for
society as a whole, it includes details for subsets of the population. New Zealand 's suicide rates are trending down, but our youth suicide rates remain high compared
with other OECD countries.
The last two indicators are strong predictors of future health outcomes.
The links between cigarette smoking and poor health are widely recognised.
For example, cigarette smoking (active and passive) is a risk factor for many
cancers, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and has been linked with
low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and other adverse child health
outcomes. Obesity is linked with poor health outcomes, such as an increased
risk of heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.15