National | Māori Health

Smoking rates fall below 10% but Māori health outcomes still lagging

New health report highlights a drop in smoking rates but shows challenges from an ageing population.

A significant divide in health outcomes between Māori and Pasifika communities and their non-Māori counterparts has been highlighted in the Health Status Report, released by Health New Zealand - Te Whatu Ora.

Despite strides in overall national health, including reduced smoking rates and longer life expectancy, the report casts a spotlight on the enduring challenges faced by Māori and Pasifika populations. These include a pronounced life expectancy gap and higher prevalence of chronic diseases, underscoring an urgent call for targeted health interventions and a collective push towards closing the health equity gap.

“The report includes some very positive results for New Zealand,” chief executive Fepulea’i Margie Apa says. “We are seeing improvements in longevity and decreases in mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Our life expectancy continues to grow, outpacing many other countries, and we managed to avoid a significant increase in deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

It also shows daily smoking rates are now below 10%, marking a significant health achievement. Current data shows the daily smoking rate at 6.8%, a downward trend from previous years.

However, the report also identifies key areas of concern that need addressing. “There are significant gaps between the health of Māori and non-Māori, Pacific and non-Pacific, and between those living in the most deprived and least deprived areas,” Apa said, drawing attention to the six-year life expectancy gap between Māori and non-Māori and a seven-year gap between Pacific and non-Pacific peoples,.

Other challenges outlined in the report include the country’s ageing population, rising obesity levels, preventable diseases, alcohol-related harm, and increasing mental distress and self-harm. These issues pose significant challenges for New Zealand’s health sector.

In response to these findings, Health NZ and the Māori Health Authority - Te Aka Whai Ora are developing the next three-year New Zealand Health Plan.

The plan will incorporate the report’s data and the Government Policy Statement on Health, along with Health Minister Dr Shane Reti’s health targets, to prioritise improvements in health outcomes. “The health data in the report helps us identify our priority areas for improvements in health outcomes over the next three years,” Apa said.

Key statistics from the report

One in three New Zealand adults has a BMI of 30 or above, affecting their health. It also highlights the projected increase in the population aged 75 and over, which is expected to rise by 3.8% annually for the next decade, increasing the demand on health services. The report calls attention to the rise in obesity and preventable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the impact of alcohol consumption on health and safety, and the increase in psychological distress and self-harm among New Zealanders.

Read the full report here.