Close-contact infectious diseases

Trends and ethnic inequalities in hospitalisations, 1989 to 2008

Research Paper (2nd edition. The citation for the first edition can be found here)

Infectious diseases are the most common cause of acute hospitalisation in New Zealand. Their incidence is known to have increased during the 1990s. Infectious diseases are also a major cause of health inequalities, with Maori and Pacific peoples’ hospitalisation rates consistently higher than those for Europeans and others.

A useful category for analysis is close-contact infectious diseases (CCIDs), i.e. respiratory, skin and enteric (faecal-oral) infections spread by person-to-person contact in the community. There are several reasons for focusing on CCIDs:

  • they account for most cases of infectious disease;
  • their incidence appears to have been rising over the past two decades;
  • they include the infectious diseases with pandemic potential (e.g. influenza and SARS);
  • they contribute to ethnic and socio-economic health inequalities;
  • they provide a potential indicator of population vulnerability to infectious disease because they are likely to be driven by health determinants such as household crowding levels;
  • they may provide a focus for improved disease prevention and control effort;
  •  they are measurable using coded hospitalisation and mortality data that are routinely collected in New Zealand (as presented in this report).

This report describes the epidemiology of infectious diseases and CCIDs for the 20-year period from 1989 to 2008, with a specific focus on ethnic inequalities, particularly relating to Maori and Pacific Peoples.