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National approved targeted Hepatitis B screening

27 October 2000 Media Statement

National approved targeted Hepatitis B screening

Health Minister Annette King says it is ironic Race Relations Commissioner Rajen Prasad has cited an affirmative-action policy such as hepatitis B screening as an example of the racial division, resentment and anger that can be caused by implementation of the Government's closing the gaps health policies.

Dr Prasad made the claim in a submission to the Health Select Committee on the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill.

"I am disappointed Dr Prasad raised the Hepatitis B issue again. He was aware the targeted hepatitis B screening programme preceded this Government's closing the gaps policies. The programme became policy under the previous National Government. I met Dr Prasad for an hour on May 31 and explained this to him, and explained the purpose of the programme.

"The reality is that recent New Zealand governments, whether the former National one or the current Labour-Alliance Government, have been faced with horrible and horrifying disparities in terms of Maori health. In specific instances, like hepatitis B, solutions have to be targeted toward removing those disparities.

"Generally, however, closing the gaps funding is only a small proportion of overall government spending. In health, as in all other areas of social spending, this Government is determined to help all New Zealanders, whatever their colour, get fair and affordable access to health care they need.

"In the previous decade the divisions between the haves and the have nots widened alarmingly in New Zealand under extreme right-wing government policies. These divisions cannot be allowed to continue if we are to have a balanced and fair society.

"Many of the poor and most disadvantaged in our society happen to be Maori and Pacific people, but they are not the only ones. This Government's policies are aimed at providing a fairer deal for all disadvantaged New Zealanders. We are not giving preferential help to Maori, but we are about giving help wherever it is needed most badly."

ENDS

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