Quake impact yet to hit - health officials

06:05, Oct 17 2012
RED FLAGS: Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates.

Not picking up prescriptions, binge drinking and delaying medical checkups are signals ''the full impact of the earthquakes'' is still to come, Canterbury's health officials say.

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates today gave a presentation to the board about the medium-term impact of Hurricane Katrina on people's health.

The research looked at dangerous behaviours, such as smoking, drinking and substance abuse, lack of self-management where a person's health was concerned and the increase of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, three years after the deadly natural disaster hit the south of the United States.

Meates said Canterbury's health system was ''already seeing red flags'' in some areas.

''We've seen a drop off in the number of prescriptions being picked up. People aren't following or completing courses of medication and people are turning up in the health system later on and their presentations are more complex because of it,'' he told the board.

''These issues are red flags that mean we have to keep a close eye on this and know what's coming.''


Many people had started smoking again after the quakes and ''household breakups, domestic violence and divorce'' were on the rise, he said.

''Binge drinking is starting to become quite a major factor of what we're dealing with ... and people are seemingly deferring or choosing not to have certain surgical procedures because there's too much other stuff going on in their lives.''

Meates said the community and the health system had showed ''incredible resilience'' after the quakes, but the next two to three years ''would make the first two look easy''.

Board member Olive Webb said health workers were part of the community and dealing with same issues.

Another board member, Elizabeth Cunningham, said housing and financial difficulties were having a ''significant impact'' on the community's overall health, and Chris Mene said proposed school mergers and closures affected families in the ''most deprived and vulnerable areas''.

Andrew Dickerson said the ''appalling performance'' of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, the Earthquake Commission and insurance companies would take its toll on people's mental wellbeing.

Have you become slack in the health department since the quakes? Delayed medical check-ups or surgery etc? If so, please contact our health reporter georgina.stylianou@press.co.nz

The Press