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Racism perpetuates health disparities

Racism perpetuates health disparities - Maori Party

Hon Tariana Turia, Health spokesperson

31 July 2008

A doubling of health spending over the past nine years has not addressed huge disparities between health outcomes for Maori and the general population, which result from racism in the health system, according to Maori Party health spokesperson Tariana Turia.

"Maori obtain fewer referrals, fewer diagnostic tests and less effective treatment plans, and die on average eight years younger than non-Maori," said Mrs Turia. "Why is this the return our people get from the government's huge spending on health?"

"You will not find the answer in the report of the Health Select Committee on 2008/09 Estimates for Vote: Health. The report does not even mention the word Maori - and that is the vital clue.

"The report covered District Health Board deficits, inherited deficits, operational deficits but the biggest deficit of all was missing - the systemic deficit that we might call racism.

"Dr Matire Harwood, the Director of Maori Health for the Medical Research Institute, suggests that the basis for such inequalities is that racism is thriving in the health system," said Mrs Turia.

"Dr Harwood describes three levels of racism:

* systematic racism which drives inequalities in health determinants

* one-on-one racism, within the doctor-patient relationship

* internalized racism where individuals - in this case Maori - feel as if we don't deserve to have certain procedures.

"Twenty years ago, the report on the Department of Social Welfare Puao-te-ata-tu advised Government that the most destructive form of racism is institutional racism - the outcome of mono-cultural institutions which simply ignore or freeze out the cultures of those who do not belong to the majority.

"Why is it that we are still facing this crisis in Maori health care - and yet the health committee's report neglects to even speak the name out loud - Maori?" asked Mrs Turia.

"We must invest in eliminating racism, in restoring health and wellbeing to all people who call Aotearoa home," she said.


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