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Māori face barriers preventing access to palliative care

Hon Tariana Turia

Associate Minister for Health

7 August 2014 Media Statement

Māori face barriers preventing access to palliative care

Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia says that research reports recently released show that Māori continue to face a number of barriers preventing them from accessing palliative health.

The findings were released in three health reports funded by the Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council. The research adopted a kaupapa Māori approach and contained a review of literature on the experience of Māori and indigenous people internationally with palliative care services. There was also a review of written material distributed by palliative care organisations to patients and whānau carers.

“I am disturbed that there are still significant barriers facing whānau Māori in palliative care. Cultural competency, absence of tikanga Māori and poor communication with clients are all having a negative effect on the experience whānau have at such a critical point in their lives,” says Minister Turia.

The findings also showed that staff were often poor at handling the ‘difficult conversations’ when treatment was entering a palliative stage. Other barriers also included low levels of health literacy, as well as a perception that palliative care was perceived as a Pākehā service.

“While some of our whānau report having had positive experiences in dealing with palliative care services, these findings indicate that there is much work to be done to ensure that communication is at a level that anyone can understand and that all staff are culturally competent and trained to deal with those from a culture other than their own,” says Mrs Turia.

Other issues raised in the report included an inadequate number of Māori staff, few staff with navigator skills to help patients and whānau, buildings with insufficient resources for larger whānau, poor liaison with other provider groups and poor ethnicity data collection and use.The reports also identified a number of ways written resources at hospices could be improved to make information more accessible to patients and their whānau. This included shorter sentences, increased and more accurate use of te reo Māori and simpler explanations of medical and technical terms.

“I will be asking the Ministry of Health to provide updates on progress made to ensure that staff are more culturally competent and receive the appropriate training in a number of areas including communication with whānau Māori. In addition I would expect a report back on how the Ministry intends to improve the gathering of data and making sure information is appropriate and accessible to everyone,” says Mrs Turia.

The reports are available online through the following links:

Māori health literacy and communication in palliative care: Kaumātua led models is available on www.health.govt.nz

Kia Mau te Kahu Whakamauru: Health Literacy in Palliative Care is available from www.auckland.ac.nz

Palliative Care and Māori from a Health Literacy Perspective is available from www.health.govt.nz

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