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Decades of Disparity III Bad News for the Govt

Decades of Disparity III Bad News for the Government;

‘Racism rampant in the provision of health services’ says Turia

Tuesday 9 May 2006

In 1986, a ministerial advisory committee to the Department of Social Welfare, brought to the attention of the Government of the day, ‘the faces of racism’: which identified the impact of personal racism, cultural racism and institutional racism. Then Minister of Social Welfare, Labour Minister Hon Dame Ann Hercus, received the daybreak report entitled Puao-te-ata-tu, which advised Government:

“The most insidious and destructive form of racism though, is institutional racism. It is the outcome of mono-cultural institutions which simply ignore and freeze out the cultures of those who do not belong to the majority”.

Exactly two decades on, to be presented with further compelling evidence that ‘historical and social processes that systematically disadvantage Maori such as colonisation, discrimination and racism, are still having a clear impact on ethnic disparities in mortality is a huge concern to the Maori Party, said Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party and health spokesperson.

“The Decades of Disparity III report will be a huge blow to the Government as it prepares for Budget 2006” stated Mrs Turia.

“We are of course concerned - but unsurprised - at the finding that Maori are disproportionately affected by the health consequences of lower socio-economic status. We have repeatedly raised the issues of the urgent need to address poverty, particularly for those families who are discriminated against by the Working for Families package. The report today, merely emphasizes the urgency of this need”.

“But big questions also have to be asked about the capacity of the health system to say it is responding to the needs of all citizens, if one group is constantly achieving lower rates of mortality than another, and yet both are receiving similar socio-economic resources”.

“This is a very important report, which the Maori Party will be taking time to consider further” stated Mrs Turia.

“We cannot argue with the facts anymore - yes, socio-economic status is a significant factor in understanding ethnic disparities. But we also need to be open to understanding the faces of racism - and to be able to reflect on the changes we need to make to our health practices truly effective for all”.

“The Ministry of Health will be critical in providing us with the information and the solutions as to how to address racism”.

“It may be as simple as reminding clinicians that when Maori or Pacific clients come to their attention for asthma management, that they consider options for treatment as well as preventive approaches”.

“Just two weeks ago, we received a report from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation which stated that bias and discrimination are commonly cited barriers for Maori in accessing health care” said Mrs Turia.

“I said at the time, that we must all work in a concerted way towards the elimination of racism, otherwise such disparities will continue to grow".

“And yet last week in Parliament, Associate Minister of Health, Jim Anderton, responded to my questions by stating, “that if the member has evidence of that systemic bias and supplies it to me, I will get comment back to her”.

“I have to wonder, how much evidence of systemic bias will come before the Government before they start to take this message seriously. Now that he has the latest information, I look forward to his comments”, said Mrs Turia.

“The Government and its Ministers seem to be in denial of factual evidence of bias and discrimination which even the Special Rapporteur (after nine days) was able to demonstrate existed” said Mrs Turia.

“Now we have this report. The message from the latest report is clear. We must push ahead with Maori economic development to ensure that socio-economic disadvantage is reduced” concluded Mrs Turia. “And we must also concentrate our efforts in health promotion and health services to ensure that Maori are able to access and achieve excellent health outcomes; alongside all other New Zealanders”.


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