Commissioner’s Update - September 2019

Kathy Grant
Kathy Grant
Spring has arrived, in all its glorious colour and wild weather.
 
This Spring has begun with an unwelcome visitor to our district however – measles. At the time of writing, 21 cases had been notified, centred around Queenstown. These are just a fraction of the cases across the country, with Auckland most affected by the outbreak.
 
This is a reminder of the importance of the steps we need to take as a community to keep ourselves and each other well. High levels of immunity across the population are essential if we are to prevent the disease reaching those who are most vulnerable – our babies who are too young to be vaccinated, those who are unable to be vaccinated for other reasons such as allergies, and people whose immunity has been compromised.
 
The Southern district has traditionally had relatively high rates of immunisation, and we hope this will assist us as we try to bring this disease under control.
 
The benefits of early interventions to improve the health of our population has also been borne out with the success of the National Bowel Screening Programme across the Southern district. We have among the highest participation rates in New Zealand, and much higher than the national average for Māori. In some ways it seems strange to celebrate reaching the milestone of discovering 100 cancers through this programme – these are never diagnoses one wishes to make. But it is some comfort to know that were it not for the programme, all of these cancers would have been discovered later, and some possibly too late. It’s worth noting also that since the bowel screening programme commenced, more people have been investigated on the basis of their symptoms (as in, not through the bowel screening programme), possibly due to greater awareness of bowel health.
 
With next week Mental Health Awareness Week, we are reminded again that the health and wellbeing of our community is a combined effort. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to someone in need, taken steps to protect themselves and others from disease, participated in a screening programme or encouraged others to do so.

And thank you to all those whose work to keep people well, prevent conditions from developing or stopping them in their tracks is often invisible. It is greatly appreciated.