Country's sickest region Hawke's Bay, report says
11.25am Thursday November 9, 2006

A medical report has revealed the Hawke's Bay has the sickest people in the country, with more people dying in the region from breast cancer, strokes and suicide attempts than anywhere else in New Zealand.

The report by the Hawke's Bay District Health Board's medical officer of health Caroline McElnay revealed the region has the worst health based on 48 health indicators.It showed the Hawke's Bay fared worst out of the 21 district health boards in five categories of health.

Dr McElnay said the 48 categories of health indicators she used for the latest report differed slightly from last year but the result was the same, National Radio reported today.

Some of the areas of health where Hawke's Bay was worse than the bench mark include the percentage over the age of 15 who are obese, who smoke, the breast cancer mortality rate, the mortality rate of people with strokes and heart disease and the percentage of children under the age of four hospitalised with burns.

DHB chairman Kevin Atkinson said some of the key areas where Hawke's Bay was performing badly came as a surprise.

"The disparities in health between Maori and non-Maori in the region are significant and the board does need to put strategies in place to address the issue," he told National Radio.

Mr Atkinson told Hawke's Bay Today the region had measured up "extremely badly" in Dr McElnay's report, which he said was becoming more accurate every year."It's disappointing and alarming and we have got to start talking about this," he said.

Mr Atkinson said it was unbelievable the region was the worst location for eating two or more fruit and vegetable servings a day."And our suicide rate is double the next worst one. We need to ask what it is about this province that is causing this to happen."

In the report Dr McElnay said Hawke's Bay's low scoring could be the result of the poorer population's health overriding the better health of the rest of the population.

Mr Atkinson partially blamed the region's poor health record on population-based funding which did not account for the high deprivation levels in Hawke's Bay.

Dr McElnay would present her report to the board today.