'Stressed' region poorest, sickest

The MidCentral region has a higher population of groups with high health needs compared to the rest of the country, a health needs assessment of the region shows.

The annual report, which also includes the Whanganui region, shows both regions have higher populations of Maori, elderly and low socioeconomic families.

The report's author, MidCentral District Health Board clinical adviser for health information and data quality Dr Richard Fong, said that influenced the general health status of both MidCentral and Whanganui areas.

"Socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with poorer health status. This implies both MidCentral, and especially Whanganui populations, would have poorer health status than the New Zealand average," Fong said.

Highbury health service Te Waka Huia community health promoter Chrissy Paul said the report provided clear insight into the local community and confirmed the health service was under stress.

"We're out there and we see it in the community, in particular Maori and lower socioeconomic communities . . . the need that we experience from the community, it just confirms it, really."

Bad health seemed to stem from poverty or stresses and strains on families, Paul said.

"I think that when we look at the people who don't have good health, they are struggling more financially, they may be in lower-paid jobs or unemployed," she said.

"It's not just having a health service but having a warm house, a dry house, healthy food, transport so you can get yourself to your appointments - those are the determinants of good health.

"People who tend to have better health don't necessarily deal with those stresses and strains of life."

Grey Power Manawatu president Lew Findlay said the region certainly had a higher population of older people, as well as people with disabilities, which affected the overall health status.

He said the DHB needed to invest more money to assist with patient flow through the emergency department, where he knew of many elderly people who had been forced to wait "hours and hours" for care.

"The hospital does the very best they can with staff they've got but the hospital board needs to look at what they're doing for older people," Findlay said.

Paul said Te Waka Huia spent a lot of time focusing on prevention and helping patients to self-manage their health.

The report included recently released DHB-related 2013 census data.

It showed MidCentral had a higher proportion of older people at 16.5 per cent, compared with the national average of 14.3 per cent.

MidCentral's Maori population was at 17.4 per cent compared with the national average of 14.1 per cent.

The median household income in MidCentral was $52,500 compared with $63,800 nationally.

Manawatu Standard