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Working to improve Mäori health

Working to improve Mäori health

Improving the health status of Mäori is a challenge all mainstream health and disability agencies must tackle, Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi said today.

Reducing health inequalities between Mäori and non-Mäori is a key priority for the Ministry of Health and is underscored in a national Mäori health strategy and action plan released today by Health Ministers Annette King and Tariana Turia.

He Korowai Oranga: Mäori Health Strategy sets the direction for Mäori health development in the health and disability sector for the next five to 10 years. Whakatätaka: Mäori Health Action Plan 2002-2005 outlines what will be done to put the strategy in place.

Dr Poutasi said that as a population, Mäori have on average the poorest health status of any ethnic group in New Zealand.

``Mäori life-expectancy is eight years less on average than that of non-Mäori, while hospitalisation rates for all causes are nearly double for Mäori than non-Mäori. This is not acceptable,'' she said.

``We know that the factors that lead to poor health status are complex and include areas such as housing, income and education. Addressing these issues requires not only those in the health and disability arena, but also people in other sectors to understand the impact of their activities on health. We have to work together with Mäori so we can improve health outcomes for all Mäori around the country.''

She noted He Korowai Oranga and its action plan Whakatätaka expand on the principles and objectives for Mäori in the New Zealand Health Strategy and the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

It also sets the direction for Mäori health in other service or population-group strategies, including the Primary Health Care Strategy, the Health of Older People Strategy and the Public Health Strategy.

``The strategy and its plan are important pieces of policy that will help us all work on the very real quality of life issues whänau around New Zealand are facing. All families want the very best for their loved ones and the overall aim of He Korowai Oranga is all about that -- supporting Mäori families to achieve health and wellbeing,'' Dr Poutasi said.

``It is important to note that this requires an approach that recognises and builds on the integral strengths and assets of whänau, so that it encourages whänau development. Mäori want more say in developing health and disability services to meet their needs, and this strategy will help achieve this.''

Dr Poutasi said because the discussion document for He Korowai Oranga was released last year, District Health Boards (DHBs), iwi and providers have been building it into their planning and service delivery for some time now.

``There is a lot of work ahead of us if we are to get the desired health outcomes for whänau and Mäori,'' Dr Poutasi said.

``Some of this work is outlined in Whakatätaka, which looks at specific actions for the next two to three years. The Ministry, along with DHBs, will need to work closely with Mäori to reach the goals of He Korowai Oranga.

``The Ministry will also be monitoring the implementation of He Korowai Oranga around the country so we can accurately gauge how well its overall goals are being met.''

He Korowai Oranga and Whakatätaka can be viewed on the Ministry website at www.moh.govt.nz or at http://www.maorihealth.govt.nz

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