Three quarters of all deaths between birth and age 74 were defined as avoidable. Many of these deaths were caused by road accidents, so rates were more affected by non-medical intervention. Others were caused by illness including heart disease, diabetes and smoking related cancers. Through reduction of risk factors, earlier diagnosis of illness when it did occur, and appropriate medical treatment, rates of avoidable death could be reduced.
As this graph shows, rates of avoidable death varied by gender and by ethnicity. Among women, Māori are most likely to die in this way, European/other least likely. But avoidable death among men is greater than that among women. The largest single cause of this difference is heart disease. Causes of avoidable death also vary by age. Among younger people, injury, including suicide, is a major cause. Among people over 45 (the group who suffer most avoidable deaths), illness is the major cause.
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Source: 'Australian and New Zealand Atlas of Avoidable Mortality.' Public Health Information Unit, http://www.publichealth.gov.au/publications/australian-and-new-zealand-atlas-of-avoidable-mortality.html (last accessed 21 March 2011)