The Atlas of Healthcare Variation displays easy-to-use maps, graphs, tables and commentaries that highlight variations by geographic area in the provision and use of specific health services and health outcomes.

The Atlas is designed to prompt debate and raise questions about health service use and provision amongst clinicians, users and providers of health services about why any differences exist, and to stimulate improvement through this debate.

The Atlas highlights variation but does not suggest an ideal level (high is not necessarily good or bad; the average is not necessarily the ideal). This means that it should not be used as a tool for judging the performance of one geographic area against another.

For further information read our questions & answers, watch the introductory video or find out how to use the Atlas.


The Atlas is organised by domains, which cover specific clinical areas. Select a domain from the table below to view the atlas.

PHO analysis

Some domains also have analysis available at a primary health organisation (PHO) level, where indicated by a shaded box. Select a domain below to view the atlas and PHO analysis if applicable.

PHO analysis 
Asthma This gives clinicians, patients and providers an overview of asthma prevalence, admission rates and medicine use by district health board (DHB).  
Bowel cancer The bowel cancer Atlas domain presents access, quality and outcome indicators across DHBs and Regional Cancer Network regions for people diagnosed with bowel cancer (adenocarcinoma of the colon or rectum).  
Cancer This domain provides an overview of the crude and age-standardised incidence rates both overall and for the five most common cancers in New Zealand, by DHB.  
Cardiovascular disease This shows the use of secondary prevention medicines in New Zealand residents hospitalised with an ischaemic cardiovascular disease event between 2000 and 2010.  
Community use of antibiotics This domain shows community dispensing of antibiotics for 2017 across all DHBs.  
Contraceptive use by women The domain presents indicators showing available data on each contraceptive method.   
Demography This shows life expectancy and other basic demographic data around age structure, ethnicity and deprivation.  
Diabetes This shows information by DHB for diabetes care, from identification (prevalence) and pharmaceutical management through to hospital admissions for complications.  
Equity Explorer The Equity Explorer provides information on how health and health care varies between groups of people, and between DHB areas of Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ).  
Falls This gives clinicians, patients and providers an overview on the prevalence of falls in people aged 50 and over, including those treated in the community and in hospital.  
Gout This Atlas presents information on gout by DHB including gout prevalence, prevalence by ethnicity, and compares treatment.  
Health service access This Atlas domain uses information reported by patients about their experience with health services, and builds on what we already know from the national primary care patient experience survey (2018).  
Infection and antibiotic use following major surgery This domain shows variation in infections and antibiotic use following major surgery, by DHB.  
Lung cancer The lung cancer domain gives clinicians, patients and providers an overview of the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer in New Zealand, by DHB and regional cancer network.  
Maternity This shows variation in medical procedures and complications associated with birth.  
Mental health in primary care This domain highlights regional and demographic variation in the use of certain psychotropic medicines, with the goal of prompting debate and raising questions about why differences exist.  
Mental health key performance indicators This presents a small selection of continuity indicators from the Key Performance Indicator Framework for New Zealand Mental Health and Addiction Services report.  
Opioids This domain gives clinicians, patients and providers an overview on the use of opioids, grouped into strong and weak, and also morphine and oxycodone separately, by DHB.  
Patient deterioration This domain focuses on patients who deteriorate to the point that admission to an intensive care unit is required.   
Polypharmacy in older people This shows rates of dispensing of medicines in people aged 65 and over.  
Surgical procedures This shows surgical intervention rates for tonsillectomy and ventilation tube (grommet) insertion.  
Trauma This shows variation in the performance of trauma services across New Zealand.  
Well Child/Tamariki Ora This shows how early childhood health services work for children and their families.  

 Introducing the Atlas

Atlas clinical lead, Dr Nigel Millar, and CEO of the Health Quality & Safety Commission, Dr Janice Wilson, explain the purpose of the Atlas of Healthcare Variation. 

If this video looks pixelated when viewing in fullscreen mode, please adjust the resolution to 720P using the ‘cog’ symbol at the bottom of the video.

 How to use the Atlas

Learn how to find your way around the Atlas reports by using the text version of the user guide or viewing the video below.

If this video looks pixelated when viewing in fullscreen mode, please adjust the resolution to 720P using the ‘cog’ symbol at the bottom of the video’


If you would like to comment on the design of the reports or have suggestions for future reports please email us.


Last updated 23/11/2021