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Stroke rates increase for Maori and Pacific People

Media Release
18 November 2005

Stroke rates increase for Maori and Pacific Peoples

Three linked studies into the incidence of stroke in Auckland over the past twenty years have shown an overall decline in the disease but with high or increased rates for some ethnic groups, particularly Maori and Pacific people.

These results are from what is believed to be the largest and most ethnically diverse study into the occurrence of strokes and will be published in an upcoming edition of Stroke.

The studies, which were all part of the wider Auckland Regional Community Stroke (ARCOS) study, were based at the Clinical Research Trials Unit at The University of Auckland. They show a 66 per cent increase in incidence rates for Pacific people and a 30 per cent increase for Maori since the beginning of the 1980s.

Conversely stroke incidence rates for European New Zealanders has decreased by 19 per cent and the overall incidence of stroke has declined by 11% during the same period.

One of the investigators, Associate Professor Valery Feigin of the CTRU, based at the University’s School of Population Health, says this is the largest stroke incidence study of its kind in the world and it shows a worrying trend in Maori and Pacific people.

“We have been aware of the disparities in health amongst different populations for some time, but this is the first time we have an exact measure not just of the incidence of stroke, but the outcomes, including mortality rates, long term disabilities and the impacts on the quality of life for sufferers across different groups.

“Clearly more research is needed to identify causes of these disparities and to develop effective preventive and rehabilitation strategies to reduce the burden of this devastating disease,” he says.

The study has highlighted underlying factors that could account for the increase in Pacific and Maori stroke rates, including smoking, and the growing incidence of diabetes and obesity. It has also shown strokes are being suffered earlier in life by Maori and Pacific Island people than those of European origin.The mean age of stroke victims in New Zealand Europeans is 75 years, in Maori it is 61 years, and in Pacific peoples 65 years.

“And given that there is a 70 per cent chance of long term disability for those who survive a stroke, this places a major burden on their family and community in caring for stroke sufferers,” Dr Feigin says.

As well as highlighting the higher risk for Maori and Pacific people, the studies have shown that living or working with smokers almost doubles a non-smoker’s risk of stroke.

While the study showed some positive changes such as a decrease in stroke sufferers who smoked, this was counterbalanced by an increase in the frequency of patients who also have diabetes and obesity.

Some major results of the study will be presented at the New Zealand Rehabilitation Association’s annual conference in Auckland on Friday morning November 18th.

ENDS

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