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Negative experiences put Māori off health services

26 March 2009

Negative experiences put some Māori off using health services

According to the findings of our survey, a significant proportion of Māori have such negative experiences of health services that they say they are less likely to access medical care when they need it.

Our survey - Māori Experiences of Care: He ritenga whakaaro – was undertaken by Mauri Ora Associates with funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Previous studies have shown that Māori have lower life expectancy than non-Māori in New Zealand and greater rates of illness or disability. Māori also receive less consultation time with their GPs, less access to some health services, fewer referrals to specialists and fewer investigations. We sought to understand what lies behind the paradox of Māori having higher health needs but actually receiving lesser health services.

The telephone survey of 651 Māori gathered information on 1400 service encounters from a six month period. Statistical analysis of the results showed that while most Māori reported good experiences, about 20 percent of Māori had significantly different experiences with many expressing concerns about interactions with health professionals and hospital staff.

While the second group was slightly younger than the first (an average age of 39 years compared to 47 years), there were no other differences between the groups in terms of employment status, gender, household income, use of services or ability to use the Māori language.

These results strongly suggest that the quality of interaction with health professionals can affect the patient’s experience.

While most Māori are getting good service from their health professionals, a sizable number of Māori patients feel that health workers have negative attitudes towards them. This means they may avoid seeking healthcare in the future.

The survey points to ways to improve Māori patients’ use of healthcare services, by focusing on identifying and improving health providers’ attitudes and behaviours.

This research was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and the Accident Compensation Corporation.


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