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NZ health system called racist over untimely Māori and Pasifika deaths

generic hospital hallway

Wellington, NEW ZEALAND — There are calls for the New Zealand government to uphold Treaty of Waitangi responsibilities and end racism within the health system that is contributing to shorter lives for Māori and Pacific people.

Medical researchers have found around half of Māori and Pacific deaths are untimely.

Contributing causes include heart disease and lung cancer as well as suicide and road accidents.

The Medical Journal report said this compared with less than one quarter of other ethnicities in New Zealand whose deaths were preventable.

A Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer in Māori Health at Auckland University, Dr Rhys Jones, said social inequalities such as poor housing and access to healthcare contributed to the discrepancies, but systemic racism was a factor too.

"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."

Māori life expectancy is seven years shorter and Pacific people lived six years less, than those of other ethnicities in New Zealand, according to the research.

For Māori, coronary disease and cancers of the airways and lungs in both males and females were significant contributors to early deaths.

In Māori men suicide and road accidents were a key factor in avoidable injuries.

For Pacific men and women the greatest contributors to early death were coronary disease, diabetes and strokes.

Pacific women had higher rates of uterine cancer contributing to their shorter life spans.