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Māori Children Hospitalised With Asthma At Twice Rate Of Non-Māori, Study Finds

A study published today (16 April) in the New Zealand Medical Journal highlights clear inequities in the health outcomes of New Zealand children with asthma.

The study, by the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland, documents trends in the number and cost of hospital admissions and asthma prescriptions for children aged 0-14 from 2010-2019.

It shows that Māori children were hospitalised with asthma at twice the rate of non-Māori children (7.2/1,000 versus 3.5/1,000), and a larger proportion of Māori children had an asthma readmission within 90 days of their first admission (18% versus 14%).

Asthma admission rates for children from families living in the most deprived areas were, on average, 2.8 times higher than in the least deprived areas.

It’s estimated that the combined cost of asthma hospitalisations and prescriptions was $165m.

"Although hospitalisations and prescriptions attributable to asthma have declined, our analysis indicates that many New Zealand children, particularly Māori children and those living in areas of high deprivation, are not receiving levels of primary care for asthma that are consistent with prevention," says researcher Dr Justin O’Sullivan.

"These findings are in line with our own research," says Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) Chief Executive Letitia Harding. "Our latest report, The Impact of Respiratory Disease in New Zealand: 2018 Update, found that prevalence, hospitalisation and mortality were all significantly higher for both Māori and Pacific peoples, and in more socioeconomically deprived neighbourhoods. The report recommended that urgent new and extended programmes are needed to reduce the severe ethnic and socio-economic inequalities in respiratory disease."

ARFNZ has a strong focus on reducing health inequities and reaching vulnerable communities. The Sailor the Pufferfish - Heremana te Kōpūtōtara puppet show, an engaging musical show which helps to educate tamariki and their kaiako about asthma, is now presented to school children in te reo Māori. Booklets on managing your child’s asthma, asthma action plans and asthma symptom diaries are also now produced in te reo Māori.

ARFNZ also works in partnership with Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission), and recently sent over 70 te reo resource packs out to Māori Health Providers across New Zealand, which also included asthma spacers to deliver asthma medication more effectively.

"The support we get from Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori helps us to get information and resources to the most vulnerable communities," says Letitia. "The findings of the University of Auckland study reinforce the value and necessity of this outreach work."

ARFNZ’s next Impact of Respiratory Disease in New Zealand report will be published later this year.

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