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Speech Notes for SIDS International Conference

Associate Minister of Health

Speech Notes for
Auckland University
8 Februarty 2000

Tena koutou katoa


 I am very pleased to have been invited to open today’s conference. It represents an ideal opportunity to meet with you informally to discuss the problem of SIDS in Aotearoa/New Zealand and to inform you of this Government’s commitment to reducing SIDS, especially among Maori.

 I would particularly like to welcome our international contributors here for this conference. We are grateful that you have been willing to share with us the benefit of your acquired wisdom in these areas.

 Equally, it is my pleasure to have this occasion to acknowledge significant contributions of the many professionals, communities and whanau/families to the development of SIDS programmes within Aotearoa/New Zealand.

 Thank you for your hard work, there is nothing more precious than the gift of life. He aha te mea nui o te Ao. He tangata he tangata he tangata.


 SIDS mortality in Aotearoa/New Zealand has traditionally been higher than in Britain and the United States, and significantly higher than Asian countries like Hong Kong.

 As is common in other countries with a disadvantaged indigenous population, Maori comprise a significant proportion of SIDS deaths. Recently however the gap between Maori SIDS rates and the rate for the overall population has lessened. This provides a strong impetus to build upon these successful strategies and celebrate those gains within the Maori SIDS programmes.

 Research shows us that SIDS is much more common among people who smoke, and is also poverty related. Maori comprise a large proportion of those in the lower socio-economic groups, and smoking is common among wahine Maori. These risk factors are also prevalent in non-Maori families within similar social situations. Prevention measures aimed at these risk factors are vital if we are to make headway and reduce the level of SIDS in NZ.

Health disparities

 So what does this Government intend to do to address these issues? We will continue to address the risk factors confronting us such as:

 Young parents requiring health information and education.
 An income base that nurtures young people into strong roles of parenthood.
 An environment that provides warm safe shelter where our babies may thrive and grow to reach their fullest potential in life.

 Therefore, the emphasis is on co-ordination and integration building upon our community strengths, the best of our cultural characteristics and proven strategies for early engagement in health promotion, health prevention programmes, and Maori health workforce development strategies.

Child Health

 Improving the status of children’s health is a priority for this Government. “The Child Health Strategy” is a good starting point and this Government intends to build on this by:

 Extending support for the Family Start programme to ensure that it is meeting the needs of families and with a view to widening the scope of the programme eventually to become nationwide. Currently, there are thirteen independent Maori health providers working in partnerships with their communities and co-ordinating with other organisations these exciting services.
 Funding Plunket Line for a 24 hour, 7 days a week telephone service.

 I can also confirm that the Government is committed to maintaining the free under sixes policy so that young children have access to GP services and the pharmaceuticals they need.

 Furthermore, the Government will complement these services with initiatives specifically for those children not currently accessing primary care. Immunisation is another important preventive health measure, which needs more attention.

 Services such as those offered by a range of independent Maori primary health care providers, and Plunket, delivering health services directly to our tamariki and young parents will continue to fulfil an integral part of the primary care system, as emphasis is put on developing a healthy nation.

Priorities for Maori Health

 The Government recognises that the determinants of health and disability are both wide-ranging and entwined. It seems impractical and unrealistic to focus upon health as a sector without recognising the impact and importance of other areas such as education, welfare, justice, and housing. This is why the Government is implementing an integrated package to improve Maori health and well being. For example, within health we will also focus on:

 Supporting iwi development
 Supporting major Maori health organisations.
 Increasing training opportunities for Maori health workers
 Develop community-based employment opportunities as a means of reducing socio-economic factors affecting health
 Supporting increased autonomy and control so that communities are empowered to develop their own approaches to problems.

 The Government acknowledges the growing disparities between Maori and non-Maori in health status and is targeting Maori health needs through improving Maori community capacity, increasing focus on primary health care, and ensuring the appropriateness of mainstream services to Maori health needs.

I can tell you that this Government is committed to improving Maori health, and increasing Maori participation in the health and disability sector in the purchasing, provision, and in decisions that directly affect them.

Maori SIDS Prevention Programme

 It would be improper of me to address this auspicious audience without taking this wonderful moment to address the work of
Doctor David Tipene-Leach, lecturer at Auckland University, a strong campaigner for the reduction of Maori cot death within Aotearoa/New Zealand. Thank you David and your team as we all know, no one person can carry this burden,

The communities you've nurtured to understand the issues of cot death amongst our own people.
 The academic rigour in which you have developed programmes.
 The partnerships you have formed to provide accurate information and data regarding this major development within Maori health.

Ka nui te ora e te rangatira e Rawiri.

 The National Maori SIDS Programme was established in 1994 as a national contract with the Public Health Commission supporting a national co-ordinator and a programme to prevent SIDS in Maori communities. Since then, the programme has developed rapidly and there is a huge demand for the service.

 Since its inception, the programme has expanded from its initial focus on information dissemination for SIDS prevention and the promotion of baby wellness to include support for Maori SIDS families, advocacy to ensure improved services for SIDS families at both a regional and national level, advocacy for changes to the Coronial process, the establishment of a SIDS database and register, and the commission of and involvement in research.

Aotearoa/New Zealand Health Strategy

 One of the major questions I am asked is how is the Government going to implement its' health policy? The structural changes to the health system recently announced are secondary in importance to the Governments commitment to a health strategy that improves the health of the people of this nation we will strive to reduce the disparities and inequities in health care and create a healthier country.

There cannot be a conference in this country that does not acknowledge the contribution of Dr Jim Sprott.

In our culture, we are used to robust debate.

There is no one answer to this issue so it is important to acknowledge what has worked for some and continue our search for other solutions to what is a soul destroying issue for those affected.

To conclude, to all conference participants, I acknowledge your expertise in your field, which is greater than mine is.

As I have acknowledged to you, the Government will do its part, however, it is Maori and other families who will make a difference. It is they this government must serve. It is they who must be invited to participate more fully in their own human development. I welcome that, I extend that welcome to you all.

Na reira tena koutou tena koutou tena tatou katoa.

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