Too many Rotorua people are ending up in hospital for issues that could have been avoided through early intervention.
Lakes District Health Board chief executive Ron Dunham said the most common preventable conditions for under 4-year-olds going to hospital were upper respiratory and ear, nose and throat infections.
Cellulitus, or bacterial skin infections, were the most common preventable conditions among adults aged 45 to 64 who were admitted to hospital between April last year and this March.
The health board calls these admissions "ambulatory sensitive hospitalisations (ASH)" and they may have been avoided with timely primary care.
Mr Dunham said there were 678 preventable stays in hospital for children under 4 last financial year. The DHB also recorded 116 such admissions for those aged 45 to 64 between last April and this March.
Lakes DHB communications officer Shan Tapsell said people did not go to their family doctor early enough for many reasons.
They might not appreciate the seriousness of their condition, or their child's. They might think the problem would get better on its own, leave seeking care until the very last moment and not be able to get an appointment. Other reasons could include a lack of transport, being embarrassed about owing money at the GPs, and not being able to get to an appointment because of work.
Ms Tapsell said visits to the GP for those under 13 were free for enrolled children.
"It is important for your child's health to go to the doctor when they are sick and get advice and early treatment so they do not get worse and possibly need to go to hospital. A GP would much rather see a child if you have concerns - you are certainly not wasting his or her time."
After-hours visits for under-6s remained free at Lakes PrimeCare. Those under 13 could attend the emergency department if urgent.
Ms Tapsell said the DHB was working on a way to ensure visits for everyone under 13 were free after hours.
A joint project was under way between Rotorua Area Primary Health Services and Lakes DHB to improve understanding of ASH in the Rotorua region, said Ms Tapsell.
Ministry of Health group manager Andrew Inder said early intervention and self-management of long-term conditions were important to keeping people well and preventing unnecessary hospital admissions.
He said enrolment with a general practice, to ensure continuity of care with a general practice team, helped New Zealanders receive efficient care in community settings.