More thanr 26,000 Bay of Plenty smokers have been given help to quit during the past 15 months as a major health target is met for the first time.

Every year the Ministry of Health sets district health boards six health targets and tracks their progress against them quarterly. Part of the Better Help for Smokers to Quit target is that 90 per cent of Primary Health Organisation (PHO) enrolled patients who smoke are offered help to quit in the preceding 15 months.

This quarter, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB) has finally achieved the goal. It's the first time it has reached the target since it was set in 2015.

Health equity/public health portfolio manager Brian Pointon said in a media release he congratulated the organisations and people involved.

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"Smoking remains one of the biggest causes of ill health across the whole population, including the impact on babies and children, as well as non-smoking adults. It is also the most important unhealthy behaviour that causes health inequalities for Māori. Having access to this advice, and making a decision to be smokefree will impact on the lives of these people and their families over the long term."

The collective target is an averaged figure based on the results of the Bay's three PHOs: the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation, Ngā Mataapuna Oranga and the Eastern Bay Primary Health Alliance.

The Eastern Bay's allicance smokefree lead Lizzie Spence said she appreciated the hard work put in by its general practices and their dedication towards improving health.

"Hapainga Stop Smoking Service also provides free help to quit in locations such as the home, marae or coffee shop. It's fantastic that we are all working together towards an empowered smokefree community."

The Western Bay's primary health organisation's Phil Back said it was pleased to have reached the target and acknowledged the hard work involved in its general practices to achieve a lift in performance of over 31 per cent in the last 12 months.

If smokers in the Bay of Plenty want to quit they should contact their GP or nurse, or the Bay of Plenty Stop Smoking programme "Hapainga" by calling 0800 HAPAINGA (427246) for a free service.

The result follows the district health board's recent announcement of its best performance against the Ministry of Health's Shorter Stays in Emergency Departments target. Over 96 per cent of patients across Tauranga and Whakatane hospitals were seen within the target waiting time of six hours during the October-December 2016 quarter.

The district health board surpassed its target of 100 per cent for Better Access to Elective Surgery, recording 103 per cent, and nearly reached its target of 85 per cent of providing Faster Cancer Treatment with 82 per cent.

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It failed to meet the Increased Immunication target of 95 per cent, reached just 86 percent - the second lowest rate in New Zealand. It also ranked the worst region for failing to achieve a 95 per cent target in Raising Health Kids, with just 17 per cent. The quarterly figures are the first for the new target, which no region met.