Research into the social and environmental determinants of health and healthcare has been given a boost with the opening of New Zealand’s first GeoHealth laboratory at the University of Canterbury. The GeoHealth laboratory is a joint venture between the University’s Department of Geography and the Public Health Intelligence group (PHI) of the Ministry of Health.
The GeoHealth lab has brought together a large group of people interested in GIS and health geography. It will further help to develop research and research profile whilst assisting the Ministry in developing health polices to help address the key health issues faced by the citizens of New Zealand.
The research includes studies into why New Zealand has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, assessment of road traffic accident reduction policy initiatives and the ethnic differences in New Zealanders’ smoking habits. “Recent research has highlighted that smoking is highest among the most socially deprived communities in New Zealand with particularly high rates among Maori,” said Dr Pearce. “Similarly, it has been found that diabetes rates are significantly higher in New Zealand’s poorest communities and among Maori and Pacific Island communities.