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Maori Life Expectancy Figures Shameful

Maori Life Expectancy Figures Shameful

Appalling new figures on Maori life expectancy highlight an urgent need to take Maori health out of the policy arena and for government to walk its talk.

President Marty Rogers says the research, released today by the Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, shows there has been no improvement in Maori mortality over the past twenty years. Ms Rogers says there has been debate about spending on services for Maori but the research clearly shows that not enough is being done. She says there are many policy documents that confirm Maori health as a priority but we are not seeing a lot of effective action.

"The research validates the Public Health Association's strong stance that Maori health should be very high on the government's agenda."

Policy makers must take on board the message that many of the answers to poor Maori health statistics lie outside the health services themselves, Ms Rogers says. Housing, education and economic policies all have a major effect on the health and wellbeing of communities. She says it is crucial that government agencies start working together, instead of trying to solve issues in isolation.

"We keep hearing about the need for government agencies working more collectively but many of these agencies continue to operate as silos."

It is also important the government assesses the impact of all its policies on the health and wellbeing of Maori, according to Ms Rogers. She says the researchers have pointed out that the divergence in life expectancy started at the time of the economic reforms in the early 1980's.

"People need to understand that policy in areas such as housing or economics can have a major downstream effect on health. Meningococcal disease is one example of where changes in housing policy have created overcrowding and we have seen an epidemic of the disease."

Ms Rogers says the research highlights the benefits of collecting ethnicity data which can be used to make effective decisions about health spending.

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