Nick Wilson's research while affiliated with University of Otago and other places

Publications (518)

Preprint
We aimed to conduct a nationwide survey of outdoor statues of military personnel in New Zealand (NZ), to describe patterns in attacks on these, and to assess trends in their militaristic features. A literature search followed by a field survey of the statues with detailed photographs taken. Documented attacks were analysed, as were trends in object...
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Objective: There is growing epidemiological evidence linking nitrate contamination to adverse health outcomes. Health concerns may drive consumers towards bottled water, however, nitrate levels in bottled water are not readily available. Methods: We tested water samples from the 10 most popular brands using a TriOS OPUS UV optical nitrate sensor. R...
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Introduction There is still uncertainty around the impact of combat exposure on the life span of war veterans. Therefore we made use of a natural experiment to study the impact on veteran life span of combat versus non-combat exposure in World War II (WW2). Methods The combat-exposed military personnel were derived from a random (10%) sample of th...
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Air pollution from diesel-powered vehicles is likely to be contributing substantial harm to health in Aotea-roa New Zealand, as well as making it harder for this country to meet its international climate change commitments. There are a lack of controls and outdated standards applied to diesel vehicles in New Zea-land, and there is scope to extend t...
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Aims: To identify the extent of the provision of handwashing amenities in public toilets at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also to make comparisons with a related pre-pandemic survey. Methods: We collected data from 400 toilet facilities that were open to the public: all those in three contiguous city council territories (228) and a furt...
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Human civilization is vulnerable to global catastrophic biological threats and existential threats. Policy to mitigate the impact of major biological threats should consider worst-case scenarios. We aimed to strengthen existing research on island refuges as a mitigating mechanism against such threats by considering five additional factors as well a...
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Aim: We aimed to update and provide more complete epidemiological information on the health impacts of the South African War on New Zealand military personnel. Methods: Mortality datasets were identified and analysed. Systematic searches were conducted to identify additional war-attributable deaths in the post-war period. To estimate the morbidi...
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Objective To evaluate the impact of changes in import tariffs on sweetened beverages. Design Interrupted time series analysis examined sweetened beverage tariff increases of 40% to 60% in 2008 and to 75% in 2012; and an approximately 11% decrease in 2014 when an excise tax replaced the tariff. Post-tax trends were compared with a counterfactual mo...
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Background The aim of this study was to examine changes in beverage expenditure patterns before and after a T$0.50/L sweetened-beverage (SB) excise was introduced in Tonga in 2013, by household income, household age composition and island of residence. Methods Two cross-sectional surveys involved households being randomly sampled (the Household In...
Preprint
Background We compared the health and economic consequences for the State of Victoria, Australia, of four COVID19 strategies: aggressive and moderate elimination, tight suppression (aiming for 1 to 5 cases per million per day) and loose suppression (5 to 25 cases per million per day). The strategies shifted up and down through five levels of policy...
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Background: Excess winter mortality (EWM) has been attributed to both seasonal cold exposure, and to infectious disease. In 2020, New Zealand's border management and lockdown measures successfully eliminated community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and also largely eliminated influenza and many other respiratory viruses. This study investigates the co...
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Aims: We aimed to determine the effectiveness of surveillance using testing for SARS-CoV-2 to identify an outbreak arising from a single case of border control failure in a country that has eliminated community transmission of COVID-19: New Zealand. Methods: A stochastic version of the SEIR model CovidSIM v1.1 designed specifically for COVID-19...
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Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic powerfully demonstrates the consequences of biothreats. Countries will want to know how to better prepare for future events. The Global Health Security Index (GHSI) is a broad, independent assessment of 195 countries’ preparedness for biothreats that may aid this endeavour. However, to be useful, the GHSI’s extern...
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Approaches to preventing or mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have varied markedly be- tween nations. We examined the approach up to August 2020 taken by two jurisdictions which had suc- cessfully eliminated COVID-19 by this time: Taiwan and New Zealand. Taiwan reported a lower COVID-19 incidence rate (20.7 cases per million) compared...
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This article takes a public health perspective on New Zealand’s pandemic preparations, its pandemic response, and the successful outcome (as of June 2020) of its Covid-19 elimination strategy. The health outcome appears to be the best in the OECD, but some other countries made better use of certain control strategies. In the postpandemic era there...
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Background: The Pacific Island nation of Tonga (a middle-income country) introduced a sweetened beverage tax of T$0.50/L in 2013, with this increasing further in 2016 (to T$1.00/L), and in 2017 (T$1.50/L; US$0.02/oz). Given the potential importance of such types of fiscal intervention for preventing chronic disease, we aimed to evaluate the impact...
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In this perspective, we consider the possible role of the United Nations (UN) with respect to existential risks to human civilization and the survival of humanity. We illustrate how existential risks have been discussed at an international governance level, specifically in documents in the UN Digital Library. In this large corpus, discussions of nu...
Preprint
We aimed to explore the potential relationship between social injustice and militarism and attacks on statues in one case study country: New Zealand. We performed Internet searches for the existence of the statues and historical attacks in New Zealand (NZ), combined with field visits to all identified statues to examine for injuries and repairs. Of...
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Aims: We aimed to estimate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks associated with air travel from a country with a very low prevalence of COVID-19 infection (Australia) to a COVID-19-free country (New Zealand; [NZ]), along with the likely impact of various control measures for passengers and cabin crew. Methods: A stochastic version of the SEIR model Covid...
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It is important for all countries to secure themselves against infectious disease threats, including potential global catastrophic biological risks. The Global Health Security Index (GHSI), first published in 2019, is a comprehensive, objective assessment of health security capabilities across 195 States Parties to the International Health Regulati...
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Aims: We aimed to determine the length of time from the last detected case of SARS-CoV-2 infection before elimination can be assumed at a country level in an island nation. Methods: A stochastic version of the SEIR model CovidSIM v1.1 designed specifically for COVID-19 was utilised. It was populated with data for the case study island nation of New...
Preprint
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Aims: We aimed to determine the effectiveness of surveillance using testing for SARS-CoV-2 to identify an outbreak arising from a single case of border control failure at a country level. Methods: A stochastic version of the SEIR model CovidSIM v1.1 designed specifically for COVID-19 was utilised. It was seeded with New Zealand (NZ) population data...
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Background: For countries with strong border control and an epidemic that is not yet advanced, there is an opportunity to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 that is causing the COVID-19 pandemic. We estimate the probability of elimination of SARS-COV-2 under i) strict distancing policies implemented in New Zealand and Australia on the 26th and 28th March, respec...
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A SEIR simulation model for the COVID-19 pandemic was developed (http://covidsim.eu) and applied to a hypothetical European country of 10 million population. Our results show which interventions potentially push the epidemic peak into the subsequent year (when vaccinations may be available) or which fail. Different levels of control (via contact re...
Technical Report
Supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response: Surveillance and Outbreak Analytics Prepared for the Ministry of Health, New Zealand
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The hazardous and obesogenic food environment are major contributors to health loss in Aotearoa New Zealand. Here we consider the potential use of food taxes and subsidies to protect health in this country. We find that each one of the 14 recent systematic reviews on the tax and/or subsidy topic since 2015 in the scientific literature report that s...
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We estimated the case-fatality risk for 2019 novel coronavirus disease cases in China (3.5%); China, excluding Hubei Province (0.8%); 82 countries, territories, and areas (4.2%); and on a cruise ship (0.6%). Lower estimates might be closest to the true value, but a broad range of 0.25%-3.0% probably should be considered.
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This article describes important possible scenarios in which rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) pose multiple risks, including to democracy and for inter-state conflict. In parallel with other countries, New Zealand needs policies to monitor, anticipate and mitigate global catastrophic and existential risks from advanced new technologie...
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There is large uncertainty around the case fatality risk (CFR) for COVID-19 in China. Therefore, we considered symptomatic cases outside of China (countries/settings with 20+ cases) and the proportion who are in intensive care units (4.0%, 14/349 on 13 February 2020). Given what is known about CFRs for ICU patients with severe respiratory condition...
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Vehicle emissions are an important contributor to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand. Here we explore the role of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and light utility vehicles (utes) in this problem. Marketed as macho symbols of toughness and dominance, often through comparisons with savage predators, these vehicles are promoted larg...
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Aim: We aimed to conduct a preliminary analysis of any association between the 1918 influenza pandemic and its impact on birth rates in New Zealand. Methods: Official data covering the period 1910 to 1930 were sourced from multiple New Zealand Yearbooks. Estimates were made of the size of the natality impacts and estimates made of the potential...
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Fatalities directly or indirectly attributed to New Zealand earthquakes in the time period 1840 2017 inclusive were identified and classified by context and cause of death. There have been at least 489 deaths primarily attributed to 21 New Zealand earthquakes with Modified Mercalli Intensities (MMI) of VII or greater, and an additional 11 deaths re...
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AIMS: To examine the characteristics of the online marketing environment and the presence of safeguards to protect children from e-cigarette (ENDS) experimentation and uptake in New Zealand. METHODS: The search engine ‘Google Chrome’ was used to identify New Zealand vendor websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts. ‘YouTube NZ’ was searched for video...
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Objectives In March 2018, New Zealand (NZ) introduced standardised tobacco packaging that also featured new pictorial warnings, with implementation completed by early June 2018. We evaluated how the new packaging affected tobacco pack displays in outdoor areas of hospitality venues. Design Before-and-after descriptive field observation study. Setti...
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In this conceptual article with illustrative data, we suggest that it is useful to rank island nations as potential refuges for ensuring long‐term human survival in the face of catastrophic pandemics (or other relevant existential threats). Prioritization could identify the several island nations that are most suitable for targeting social and poli...
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Multifactorial individual assessment with interventions tailored to the individual's risk factors can reduce the rate of falls and risk of fractures. Assessment of vision is one key aspect of multifactorial assessment and first eye cataract surgery reduces the rate of falls. We recently modelled the impact of expediting first eye cataract surgery i...
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Background Most evidence on health-related food taxes and subsidies relies on observational data and effects on single nutrients or foods instead of total diet. The aim of this study was to measure the effect of randomly assigned food price variations on consumer purchasing, where sets of prices emulated commonly discussed food tax and subsidy poli...
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Aim To estimate the health gain, health system costs and cost-effectiveness of cataract surgery when expedited as a falls prevention strategy (reducing the waiting time for surgery by 12 months) and as a routine procedure. Methods An established injurious falls model designed for the New Zealand (NZ) population (aged 65+ years) was adapted. Key pa...
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The aim was to conduct a systematic review of real‐world sugar‐sweetened beverage (SSB) tax evaluations and examine the overall impact on beverage purchases and dietary intake by meta‐analysis. Medline, EconLit, Google Scholar, and Scopus databases were searched up to June 2018. SSB tax evaluations from any formal jurisdiction from cities to nation...
Technical Report
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Currently introduced in four New Zealand cities, Lime electric scooters (e-scooters) have elicited varied responses. Proponents argue they will help reduce traffic density, thus bringing health and environmental benefits, while critics suggest they risk unacceptable overall harm to pedestrians, users themselves, and to taxpayers, who fund treatment...
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In this study we aimed to produce the first detailed analysis of the epidemiology of the severe injury and mortality impacts of the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake in New Zealand (NZ). This involved the compilation and analysis of archival data (hospitalisations and deaths) including the examination of 324 death certificates. We found that there were 6...
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Background Smartphones are increasingly available and some high quality apps are available for smoking cessation. However, the cost-effectiveness of promoting such apps has never been studied. We therefore aimed to estimate the health gain, inequality impacts and cost-utility from a five-year promotion campaign of a smoking cessation smartphone app...
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Sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake is associated with tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. We aimed to model the health and cost impact of reducing the serving size of all single serve SSB to a maximum of 250 ml in New Zealand. A 250 ml serving size cap was modeled for all instances of single serves (<600 ml) of sugar-sweetened carbonated soft dri...
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Background: The net impact on population health and health system costs of vaporized nicotine products is uncertain. We modeled, with uncertainty, the health and cost impacts of liberalizing the vaporized nicotine market for a high-income country, New Zealand (NZ). Methods: We used a multi-state life-table model of 16 tobacco-related diseases to...
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The 1918–1919 influenza pandemic has been New Zealand’s most severe disaster event (around 9,000 deaths). We aimed to review the literature related to this pandemic in New Zealand and among New Zealanders overseas, to identify any remaining research gaps (given ongoing risks of future influenza pandemics and from new pathogens, eg, synthetic biowea...
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Objectives: To describe the patterns of alcohol use in James Bond movies over six decades. Design: Film content analysis. Setting: Wide range of international locations in 24 James Bond movies (Eon Productions series, 1962-2015). Main outcome measures: Drinking episodes for Bond and major female characters; alcohol product placement in films; peak...
Preprint
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Background Smartphones are increasingly available and some high quality apps are available for smoking cessation. However, the cost-effectiveness of promoting such apps has never been studied. Objective To estimate the health gain, inequality impacts and cost-utility from a five-year promotion campaign of a smoking cessation smartphone app compared...
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Objective Restricting tobacco sales to pharmacies only, including the provision of cessation advice, has been suggested as a potential measure to hasten progress towards the tobacco endgame. We aimed to quantify the impacts of this hypothetical intervention package on future smoking prevalence, population health and health system costs for a countr...
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Children's sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) consumption presents significant risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental health. But there is a lack of objective data on beverages in children's overall environments. This study aimed to determine the nature and extent of children's beverage availability, purchase and consumption, throughout their...
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There is new evidence from a very large systematic review and meta-analysis (Navarese et al 2018), that using statins for reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol reduces the risk of premature death. In this viewpoint article we consider the implications of this new evidence for New Zealand but also examine how the use of statins may...
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Background Alcohol is an important risk factor for road transport injuries. We aimed to determine if raising alcohol taxes would be a cost-effective intervention strategy for reducing this burden. Methods We modelled the effect of a one-off increase in alcohol excise tax (NZ$0.15 (US$0.10)/standard drink) on alcohol consumption in New Zealand, usi...
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Human civilisation faces a range of existential risks, including nuclear war, runaway climate change and superintelligent artificial intelligence run amok. As we show here with calculations for the New Zealand setting, large numbers of currently living and, especially, future people are potentially threatened by existential risks. A just process fo...
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Objective: To perform a comprehensive economic evaluation of border closure for an island nation in the face of severe pandemic scenarios. Methods: The costing tool developed by the New Zealand (NZ) Treasury (CBAx) was used for the analyses. Pandemic scenarios were as per previous work;1 epidemiological data were from past New Zealand influenza pan...
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We systematically reviewed the current use of Google Street View (GSV) in health research and characterized major themes, strengths and weaknesses in order to highlight possibilities for future research. Of 54 qualifying studies, we found that most used GSV to assess the neighborhood built environment, followed by health policy compliance, study si...
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Background: Obesity is an important risk factor for many chronic diseases. Mobile health interventions such as smartphone apps can potentially provide a convenient low-cost addition to other obesity reduction strategies. Objective: This study aimed to estimate the impacts on quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) gained and health system costs over...
Preprint
BACKGROUND Obesity is an important risk factor for many chronic diseases. MHealth (mobile health) interventions, such as smartphone apps, can potentially provide a convenient low-cost addition to other obesity reduction strategies. OBJECTIVE To estimate the impacts on quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) gained and health system costs over the rema...
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Introduction and Aims To examine the prevalence and design elements of the voluntary health warning labels and related industry initiatives on a purposive sample of alcoholic beverage containers sold in New Zealand (NZ), a country with no mandatory health warning labels. Design and Methods We selected a purposive (e.g. low‐cost) sample of 59 local...
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