April 22, 2010

NEW ZEALAND: Kiwis lead in death from heart attacks

. WELLINGTON, New Zealand / The Press / National / Health / April 22, 2010 Fifty per cent more Kiwis die of heart attacks each year than in comparable countries, an international report shows. New Zealand also spends far less on hospital and healthcare per person, the report by Johns Hopkins University researchers says. Sixty-three New Zealanders per 100,000 die of heart attacks every year, the report on developed nations shows. The next highest is Britain, with 45 per 100,000, while France has just 21 deaths. For Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the median is 44. ON THE TABLE: New Zealand spends less on hospitals and healthcare than comparable countries. Heart Foundation medical director Professor Norman Sharpe said not only did New Zealanders have more heart attacks, they were more likely to die. The high heart-attack rate was mainly due to unhealthy lifestyles, obesity and diabetes. "Many of these deaths are premature and preventable," Sharpe said. "We are not as effective at prevention and also need to improve our treatments. "We can't be complacent any more." The report, funded by the United States-based Commonwealth Fund, also showed that New Zealand spent less on hospitals and healthcare than comparable countries. After adjusting for differences in cost of living, public health funding in New Zealand was US$2448 (NZ$3436) per person compared with the US$2880 OECD median and the US high of US$6714. Australia spent US$2999 per person. New Zealand has been ranked at the bottom for per capita spending since 1991. New Zealand spent US$708 per person on in-patient hospital services, well below the average of more than US$1000. New Zealand Medical Association chairman Peter Foley said that could be partly explained by the country's focus on keeping people out of hospital and in the primary-care system, if possible. He said that model worked well, but primary services needed to be better resourced. Foley said more money did not necessarily mean better healthcare, but he would like to see New Zealand spending the OECD average, rather than less. The report said New Zealand had lower than average numbers of CT scanners, knee-replacement operations and patients getting dialysis. About 60 per cent of Kiwi women aged 50 to 69 were receiving breast cancer screening, compared with more than 70 per cent in Britain. Kiwis with diabetes had nearly 30 more potential years of life lost than the average. On the positive side, New Zealanders drank less alcohol and smoked less than their counterparts in most other countries surveyed. Ad Feedback New Zealand was also spending more on aged care – US$330 per person compared with an OECD median of just US$68. Foley said that despite the fact New Zealand appeared to be spending up to five times as much as the average on aged care, more funding was needed to keep the elderly healthy and out of expensive hospital beds. [rc] © 2010 Fairfax New Zealand Limited