NZ Health Minister Ryall defends record on infections among poor after Lancet critique
March 23 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall has defended the country’s record on tackling infectious diseases among poor Maori and Pacific Islander, saying money is being spent on immunisation, rheumatic fever and health checks.
The Lancet, a reputable weekly journal on medical matters, noted the disproportionate number of Māori, Pacific Islanders and the “socioeconomically disadvantaged” generally showing up in statistics for infectious diseases including rheumatic fever. This was at odds with other developed Western nations.
The report urged New Zealand to adopt “stronger prevention efforts for infectious diseases, and reinforce the need to reduce ethnic and social inequalities and to address disparities in broad social determinants such as income levels, housing conditions, and access to health services.”
Ryall said in a statement in response that the government was spending $24 million on a programme to stamp out rheumatic fever. At the same time, the immunisation rate for children was now about 90 percent with “virtually no difference now between the rates for Maori, Pacific and other kiwi children.”
The government was also spending an additional $21 million on its WellChild and B4 School Checks programmes aimed at the early detection of disease.