Everybody has the opportunity to enjoy a long and healthy life. Avoidable deaths, disease and injuries are prevented. Everybody has 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, and their options are limited.
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 result from injury or illness.
The desired outcomes also acknowledge that not everybody can live a fully independent life. For some people, illness or disability means they need support from families, government agencies or other networks to overcome barriers to their participation in society.
People with injuries or illness (both mental and physical) may experience barriers to participating in education, training and employment, thus reducing their economic standard 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 poorer health.17
Six indicators are used in this chapter. Together they provide a picture of the current state of the nation’s health and the likely trends in the future. They cover the length and quality of life and include both physical and mental health. The indicators are: health expectancy, life expectancy, suicide, cigarette smoking, obesity and potentially hazardous drinking.
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 three 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 disability requiring the assistance of another person or complex assistive device. This is a summary measure of a population’s health integrating both fatal (life expectancy) and non-fatal (disability requiring assistance) health outcomes.
Life expectancy measures the survival experience of the population: how long people live. It is an indicator of fatal health outcomes.
The suicide death rate serves as a proxy for the mental health status of the population. The indicator covers the suicide death rate for society as a whole and includes details for subsets of the population.
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.18
The majority of New Zealanders consume alcohol at least occasionally.19 Potentially hazardous drinking is an established pattern of alcohol consumption that carries a high risk of future damage to physical or mental health, but may not yet have resulted in significant adverse effects.20 Alcohol also contributes to death and injury due to traffic accidents, drowning, suicide, assaults and domestic violence.21