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Maori Health Issues

One of the fundamental objectives of the Government's proposed changes in the health sector was to build the capacity of Maori to provide for the health of Maori, Health Minister Annette King and Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said today.

Mrs King said she was determined the proposed changes would "not only consolidate, but greatly advance, gains already made in improving the health of Maori."

Mrs Turia said: "Maori health will be a high priority for the Government. Improving Maori health, participation and building community capacity, for whanau, hapu and iwi, are all important strategies for changing the poor health of our people."

It was essential Maori participated fully during the transition to District Health Boards, Mrs Turia said.

Mrs King said more analysis was needed of final partnership arrangements between tangata whenua and District Health Boards, but Maori must have appropriate and equitable representation in all aspects of board activities, including the primary health care advisory committees.

"The key relationship between tangata whenua and the boards needs to be built so Maori can really influence decision-making processes."

Mrs Turia said there were growing disparities between Maori and non-Maori, and these were mirrored in significant gaps in health status.

"The Government recognises evidence that shows that economic, social and cultural factors are the most important determinants of good health. Income and poverty, employment and occupation, education, housing, culture and ethnicity are the social and economic factors that have been shown, in a variety of settings, to have the greatest influence on health."

"There are a range of areas where special attention is needed, including immunisation, specialist services for rangatahi, particularly in the areas of
suicide prevention and drug and alcohol counselling, and accessible and affordable primary health care."

Mrs King said the new relationships forged by the District Health Boards with their wider communities needed to be capable of "withstanding natural tensions. To succeed the relationships must be based on a commitment to work through difficulties, to communicate well, and to share decision making power."

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