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Urgent need to address racism in asthma care

Wednesday 19 April 2006

'Asthma report provides evidence of the urgent need to address racism' Tariana Turia; Co-leader Maori Party

A new report released by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, revealing that Maori and Pasifika children with asthma appear to be further disadvantaged when it comes to acceptable asthma care, should be seen as a national disgrace, says Tariana Turia, Maori Party health spokesperson.

The report reveals that Maori children have higher rates of community-acquired pneumonia and are hospitalised with more severe pneumonia than European children.

While rates for hospital admissions due to asthma have decreased in New Zealand Europeans (in children aged less than five, hospitalisation rates per 1000 for NZ Europeans were 7.8) the rates have risen for Maori (20.5 / 1000) and Pacific children (24.6/1000).

"The Maori Party has received this report with great concern," said Mrs Turia.

"We are asking some basic questions:

o Why is it that although the prevalence for paediatric asthma in New Zealand is similar for Maori and non-Maori; Maori children have more severe symptoms when they present to the health provider; require hospitalisation twice as often as non-Maori; and are less likely to receive adequate asthma education or be prescribed preventive medication?

o Why is it that cost is being seen as a barrier to accessing treatment with asthma?

o Why is that the attitude of the doctor/provider is seen as a barrier?

o Given the Government's focus on the primary health strategy, why is this happening?"

The Maori Party has always stated that every New Zealander has the right to gold star access and referral to primary and secondary tertiary health services, regardless of ability to pay.

"This report confirms a number of key health impacts, including the factor that income is acting as an obstacle to receiving quality health care" said Mrs Turia.

"The Maori Party noted with interest the comments of co-author, Professor Innes Asher, that the massive increase in child poverty and the limited restrictions around the Working for Families package, cannot be ignored. We wholeheartedly support the report's recommendations to monitor and report on child poverty and to create strategies to reduce and eliminate it". "The most appalling feature of this report was reading of the significant ethnic disparities in tuberculosis incidence rates for children aged less than fifteen years, with Maori children accounting for 15% of all cases of TB, and Pasifika children 17% compared to 3% of European".

"Having been a nurse on the TB wards myself, many years ago, I am greatly distressed by the growth in TB amongst our children. The disease requires a huge burden of medication and intensive community support. It is a disease which has traumatic impact on the family budget, along with the pressures of frequent hospital visits and the social stigma that is attached to it. It is a third world disease, a disease of poverty, and we must start taking action to address these disparities".

The report states that bias and discrimination are commonly cited barriers for Maori in accessing health care.

Mrs Turia concluded, "If we want to close the disparity gap between Maori and Pacific children, and other New Zealanders, we must all work in a concerted way towards the elimination of racism, otherwise such disparities will continue to grow".

"We get excited about 'one law for all' if the perception is that Maori benefit. There is thundering silence when Maori appear to receive a lesser quality of service and access to treatment as highlighted by this report" .

'One standard for all' seems to have been replaced with 'double standards' when it comes to treating Maori and Pasifika children for asthma" said Mrs Turia.

"I will be referring this report to the Health Select Committee for an urgent enquiry into the management and response to respiratory illness and disease" said Mrs Turia.


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