About this item

Issue date:
20 November 2023
Corporate Author:
Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora
Diseases & conditions, Environmental health, Public health

The investigation of alleged clusters of non-communicable disease, often prompted by public concern, requires thorough planning and careful implementation.

These guidelines provide a systematic approach to the investigation of clusters of non-communicable disease. Public health officers can follow this approach to carry out organised and coordinated responses to reports of alleged clusters.

Investigation involves four distinct stages. Each successive stage involves collecting more specific data and requires a stronger verification of those data. However, public health officer may choose to combine stages, depending on local judgement, experience and the available resources. A decision as to whether to proceed with further investigation is made at the end of each stage.

Dealing with the concerns of the public and media is fundamental to investigating clusters. The public often feel threatened about the occurrence of alleged clusters and demand action and information from the health professionals involved in an investigation. Skilled risk communication, understanding of risk perception and effective handling of inquiries from the public and the media are crucial to the success of a cluster investigation.


2023 revisions

The 2023 revisions are minor and administrative to reflect changes made in the 2022 health sector reforms, which included the establishment of Te Whatu Ora and the National Public Health Service. This version also notes the National Ethics Advisory Committee’s Standards for Health and Disability Research and Quality Improvement (2019), which were published four years after the previous version of this guidance.     

Download: Investigating Clusters of Non communicable Disease - PDF, 1.5 MB

Guidelines for public health officers

Download: Investigating Clusters of Non-communicable Disease - DOCX, 1 MB

Guidelines for public health officers