National | Jacinda Ardern

Māori health leader credits government for 'starting' to improve Māori health

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Māori deserve to live longer and healthier lives and Aotearoa is not currently passing the partnership test in this respect.

Ardern made the statement during her pre-recorded Waitangi Day speech yesterday.

"As a government we know we have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable, and we know in many cases that can be our Māori communities."

Her speech has been supported by health advocate and key advisor to the government on the establishment of the Māori Health Authority Lady Tūreiti Moxon.

"I think that it's a beginning, and it's certainly the first time in this country that anyone's been brave enough and courageous enough to follow what Māori have been saying is required and needed for us for many years to take care of those inequities."

In her speech, the prime minister pointed to "the reality" that: "Māori die at twice the rate as non-Māori from cardiovascular disease, Māori tamariki have a mortality rate one-and-a-half times the rate found in non-Māori children, Māori are more likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer, and Māori die on average seven years earlier than non-Māori."

Māori children's vaccination lag

"That is one of the reasons why we’ve established the Māori Health Authority and why it is so important to support and help turn around Māori wellbeing inequalities."

Tūreiti, the managing director of Te Kōhao Health in Hamilton, says there are changes in the government's view on how to tackle Māori health inequity.

"It's very clear to the whole of government that they're not passing the test. Maori health in this country is not in a good place and it's not in a good state.

"We really need to be doing that for ourselves and in our own way and being responsive to the tangata whenua of Aotearoa."

One area Moxon believes the Māori Health Authority can and should have a role is the vaccination rollout among Māori children. Despite only being weeks old, Māori vaccination rates for children aged 5-11 yrs old is lagging behind the rest of the country, with only 20% of Māori children getting their first dose as opposed to 40% for non-Māori. She also says wider New Zealand need to be involved in getting Māori children vaccinated.

"I absolutely believe that it is imperative that the Maori Health Authority has a big part to play in the issue but we actually need everyone to be doing it - the whole country, you know, to be encouraging them and participating in getting the work done."