NZ Health System failing Pasifika and Maori

Half of Māori and Pasifika deaths in New Zealand have been found to be potentially avoidable, a study has found, and partly the result of racism which is built into New Zealand's health system LAUMATA LAUANO reports.


A Waitemata District Health Board study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in late March, examined the gap in life expectancy between different groups of New Zealanders.


The research found that 47.3 per cent of deaths of Pasifika and 53 per cent of Māori were attributed to potentially avoidable causes, such as cancers, heart disease, car crashes and suicide. For non-Māori/Pacific people, it's less than one quarter.


Avoidable deaths were defined as ones which could have been avoided by access to timely and high-quality intervention, or by addressing broader health risks like a person's socioeconomic status or environmental factors like the quality of their housing.


The study found that between 2013 and 2015, 53 per cent of Māori deaths and 47 per cent of Pacific deaths were from potentially avoidable causes.


Avoidable deaths within these groups were a significant contributor to the lower life expectancies for these ethnic groups, the researchers said.


While there were multiple factors in the avoidable death statistics like social inequalities such as poor housing and access to healthcare contributing to the discrepancies the report said racism was the "ethnic health inequities elephant in the room".

The study found that Māori people experience longer and slower waits for and through health services.


And both Māori and Pacific people being more likely to report that their needs are not met when it comes to accessing health services.


The authors of the NZMJ study said the change of Government had led to a greater focus on equity in the health system, and the Ministry of Health was now prioritising it.


They said there needed to be a clear focus on equity throughout health and social services.


The role of healthcare services in improving health equity, in particular the role of racism, needed to be recognised, they said.


"Having accepted that we're essentially part of the problem, we need to then think about what can we do to try and become part of the solution.


“So although we may be kind of overly familiar with hearing about these kind of statistics, we need to just reflect on the fact that we can't become immune to that, we can't accept or tolerate these inequities.


“It really calls for serious action."


Read the study here.