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Employment key in reducing health inequalities

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health

8 May 2006 Media Statement

Report confirms employment key in reducing health inequalities

A report into health inequalities released today provides valuable evidence in support of this Labour-led government's work to build strong and economically secure families, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

Speaking at the launch of Decades of Disparities III: ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in mortality, New Zealand 1981 – 1999, Pete Hodgson said the report underscored how important ethnicity and socioeconomic position are for health outcomes.

Produced by the University of Otago and the Ministry of Health, the report is the final in a series of three reports on health inequality in New Zealand over the 1980s and 1990s. Key findings are:

- Socioeconomic gradients in mortality exist within both Maori and non-Maori ethnic groups

- The different socioeconomic positions of Maori and non-Maori ethnic groups account for at least half of the disparities in mortality between them

- Widening inequalities in socioeconomic resources (especially position in the labour market) between Maori and non-Maori during the 1980s and 1990s explain approximately half of the widening in the mortality disparity, for people of working age.

"This report is a timely reminder that anyone who is serious about improving the health of New Zealanders needs to be serious about focusing on employment, housing, education and poverty," Pete Hodgson said.

"Under the Labour-led government New Zealand has achieved the lowest unemployment rate in the world, we've lifted tens of thousands of children out of poverty and we've provided affordable housing for tens of thousands of New Zealand families. Whilst acknowledging the importance of the historic increase in health spending over the past six and a half years, it is these general economic and social conditions that are so important as determinants of health.

"This report also reminds us that we still have more work to do to address inequalities between different ethnic groups, but it remains unacceptably high. We must continue to talk openly about disparities. I am encouraged that the gap between Maori and non-Maori is improving that exist and we must continue to work towards their elimination." Pete Hodgson said.

You can find out more about this research at the Ministry of Health website
http://www.moh.govt.nz/phi

ENDS

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