A communicable disease is one that spreads from one person to another – or from an animal to a person. They were a major cause of death in the 19th century, and in 1876 were responsible for over half of all deaths for non-Māori females and just under half for non-Māori males. By the early 20th century communicable diseases were a much less common cause of death for Pākehā. However, Māori were still adversely affected well into the 20th century – over half of all Māori deaths were due to these diseases in 1945. By 1976 they caused less than 10% of non-Māori deaths and just under 20% of Māori deaths. The percentage of deaths from non-communicable diseases like cancer rose correspondingly over this period.
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Source: I. Pool, 'Mortality trends and differentials.’ In The population of New Zealand, vol. 1. New York: United Nations, 1985, pp. 209–242.