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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Māori Health Authority shut down ignites surgeons’ drive to bridge health inequities

Health Industry Hub | March 8, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: The New Zealand Government’s recent decision to dismantle the Māori Health Authority by the end of June is being criticised for its damning impact on the health of whānau Māori.

Health spokesperson and co-leader of Te Pāti Māori, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, expressed her dismay, stating, “We are two-to-three times more likely to be engulfed with cancer and 60% more likely to die after diagnosed. The writing is on the wall, it’s in the wards and oncology units across the country.”

Ngarewa-Packer emphasised the gravity of the decision, linking it to the repeal of smoke-free laws and asserting that reverting to a system entrenched in 180 years of failure is a dire choice. She added “It’s a decision by Minister Reti to commit those he shares whakapapa with to an earlier death.”

Associate Professor Andrew MacCormick, Chair of Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Aotearoa NZ National Committee, said “We are disappointed by the Government’s axing of Te Aka Whai Ora – Māori Health Authority but that won’t stop us in our efforts to close the gap on health inequities in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ).”

According to Associate Professor MacCormick, the justification for a body like Te Aka Whai Ora is evident in the government’s own data.

“In Aotearoa New Zealand, people have differences in health that are not only avoidable but unfair and unjust,” stated NZ’s Ministry of Health report.

The 2023 report further revealed alarming statistics, indicating that Māori women die on average seven years earlier than their European/Other counterparts, while Māori men face an eight-year gap. With avoidable mortality rates exceeding 150 per 100,000 people, Māori’s health disparities are more than double that of European/Other groups.

“That’s pretty damning,” remarked Associate Professor MacCormick, emphasising the urgent need for meaningful progress in reducing health inequities. He expressed concern that the difference between equality and equity appears to be ignored.

RACS Māori Trainee Liaison Lead, Professor Jonathan Koea, called the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora a “huge blow for Māori health progress.” Professor Koea criticised the decision, labelling the return to an ineffective system as illogical, considering the lack of success in reducing disparities over the last 170 years.

Despite these setbacks, he highlighted RACS’s intensified focus on health equity for all New Zealanders, particularly in encouraging more Māori to pursue surgical careers. The goal is to have 150 fully trained and practicing Māori surgeons by 2040, coinciding with the bicentenary of Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi.

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