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New research and racial discrimination

New research and racial discrimination

The release of new research clearly linking racial discrimination to the health of New Zealanders presents a challenge to us all, says Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres.

Mr de Bres says the research findings, published on Saturday in British medical journal The Lancet, make it clear that the link between racial discrimination and health cannot be ignored.

“A disturbing aspect of these findings is the high level of self-reported experience of racial discrimination by Maori, Pacific and Asian New Zealanders. This includes verbal and physical abuse and unfair treatment in health care, work and housing.”

Mr de Bres says the research findings are part of an increasing body of evidence showing a causal link between the experience of racial discrimination and poor health outcomes.

“The findings present a challenge to everyone, not just health agencies and government. As well as reducing inequalities we need to specifically address racial discrimination in society at large in order to improve health.

“There are no quick or easy answers. Besides direct measures in health, housing, education and employment, racial discrimination has to be addressed in the context in which it occurs. This includes the workplace, the school, and the community.”

The Commission is facilitating this work through the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme. The Programme encourages organisations to undertake projects to promote diversity in their own context and provides a network connecting participating organisations.

As part of this strategy, the Commission also encourages community participation in events which celebrate cultural diversity and promote understanding, such as Race Relations Day. In the coming month, for example, the Commission is supporting Matariki, World Refugee Day and Maori Language Week.

Research overview:

The research draws on a series of questions on people’s experiences of racial discrimination which were included for the first time in the 2002/2003 New Zealand Health Survey.

Questions were asked about personal experience of racial discrimination in a respondent’s lifetime and in the past 12 months. The survey also asked people about their health and behaviours such as smoking.

The research shows that Maori, Asian and Pacific people were more likely to report experiencing all types of discrimination than Europeans. Maori were almost ten times more likely to experience discrimination in three or more settings than their European counterparts.

The team also found that Maori were more likely to report poor or fair self-rated health, low mental health, and cardiovascular disease than Europeans.

The findings show that both deprivation and racism are important determinants of health.


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