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Children Blighted by Poor Health status

Maori, Pasifika and Low Income Children Blighted by Poor Health status
Tariana Turia, Health Spokesperson for the Maori Party
27 November 2007

The delicate, exquisite beauty of the native orchid flower, Winika, is an appropriate image to demonstrate the complexity of environmental impacts upon children, says Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia.

“This beautiful putiputi grows out of the strength provided from its source – a rock, a tree, a foundation” said Mrs Turia. “Indeed so striking is the flower that Tainui named one of their prized waka taua, ‘Te Winika’, after the fine orchid which grew on the totara tree which formed the hull of the canoe”.

“This is an inspiring image of hope from which to consider the outcomes of this latest report from the Paediatric Society’s analysis into childhood diseases” said Mrs Turia. "If we can create supportive and healthy environments, to ensure all of our communities are equipped to be sites of wellbeing, then the health of our children will blossom".

“Page after page of negative outcomes describes the adverse effects of poor housing, inadequate nutrition, limited access to health care, and poverty in compromising the life chance of our young”.

“There are two clear facts which the report reveals as vital for understanding the chronic ethnic disparity in the distribution of risk factors” said Mrs Turia.

“The report identifies that on average, Pasifika and Maori babies were born into more deprived areas than European and other children” said Mrs Turia.

“And following on, it concludes that in relative terms the socio-economic position of Pasifika and Maori babies did not improve between 1980-2006”.

“There are some distressing national trends, particularly in the high rates of exposure to family violence and the fact that New Zealand has one of the highest reported prevalences of asthma in the world” said Mrs Turia.

“But the prevailing message which comes consistently through the report is the appalling and widespread impacts of poor health care and poor health outcomes for Pasifika; Maori children and young people in the most deprived areas” said Mrs Turia.

“There are some very strong recommendations from the report, which the Maori Party fully endorses” said Mrs Turia.

The first is to highlight the paucity of data on children and young people with chronic conditions – including long term disability, mental health issues or conditions managed in primary care”.

“The report suggests that additional work is needed to ensure their needs are visible” said Mrs Turia. “We would absolutely agree with such an approach – looking at hundreds of pages of dismal outcomes for Pasifika; Maori children and young people in the most deprived areas gives ample proof of the need for investment in this area” said Mrs Turia.

“Another key recommendation is to note that the current indicators fail to adequately capture cultural identity, or its role in health and wellbeing” said Mrs Turia. “The report suggests additional indicators will need to be created and resources allocated to ensure the information is interpreted within the context of Maori and Pasifika worldviews”.

“Whatever else one reads into this report, there is no escaping from the inevitable conclusion, that if we are to truly care for all our treasured orchids, including our native species, every effort must be taken to invest in strong monitoring approaches and comprehensive indicators of wellbeing”.

Background Notes

During 2002-2006 hospital admissions were higher; or poorer health outcomes achieved for Pacific and Maori children and those living in the most deprived areas;
o for lower respiratory tract infections;
• bronchiolitis;
• pertussis (contagious, bacterial respiratory infection);
• asthma (and Asian/Indian children; and males);
• oral health outcomes – lower proportions of Maori and Pasifika children being caries free at five years;
• audiometry failure rates (hearing);
• meningococcal disease;
• acute rheumatic fever;
• childhood skin infections;
• risks of sudden infant death syndrome.

o The report, Monitoring the Health of New Zealand Children and Young People: Indicator handbook is available from

The report’s cover features the winika cunninghamii, and the small native orchid appears throughout the report, reminding readers of the potential for a single bud to develop and blossom.


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