Health experts launch effort to eliminate poverty-driven health conditions

Public health experts are hoping to build on the momentum of New Zealand's COVID-19 elimination strategy to eliminate other serious infections.

Michael Baker of the University of Otago on Tuesday launched SYMBIOTIC - a new five-year research programme aimed at reducing long-term diseases and the effects of poverty.

Dr Baker told Newshub it won't be news to many that poverty and health interact.

"If you have acute infection like helicobacter pylori - which is an infection of the stomach - this is the main cause of stomach cancer in New Zealand, and that's an example of an acute infection which causes a chronic illness.

"It's caused by poor crowded housing - as a child you might pick it up living in an overcrowded home."

SYMBIOTIC aims to analyse the relationship between infectious disease, long-term conditions and social determinants to try and decrease the burden of poverty-driven health inequality.

The research team aims to break these destructive cycles by taking an integrated, whānau-centred approach. 

A senior Māori researcher in the group, Andrew Waa, says it's important to understand Māori experience.

"Grounding the research within Māori experiences will help identify solutions for how infectious diseases and long-term conditions can be better managed by and with Māori communities."

Dr Baker says the success of New Zealand's COVID-19 response has given him hope other diseases can be eradicated too.

"I think New Zealand should feel proud of its efforts to manage this pandemic better than almost every other country in the world but we can't get complacent... We hope to build on that momentum to eliminate other serious infectious diseases."