New Zealand creates the first Māori health authority

The New Zealand Health Minister announced the creation of an independent health authority dedicated to Māori as a way to reduce healthcare inequities.

Māori’s life expectancy is 7 years shorter than non-Māori

New Zealand Health Minister announced an overhaul of health agencies in order to improve patient care and included the creation of a dedicated Māori Health Authority. It is an unprecedented milestone in supporting the indigenous community’s health, the first minority group in New Zealand with 17% of the population.

Scheduled to be set up by July 2022, the Māori agency will have commissioning powers and will make joint-decisions alongside the centralised health agency. Granted with its own budget and procurement policy, the Minister didn’t give any details on the sums allocated to the agency, yet.

Māori die 7 years younger than Non-Māori in New Zealand, despite recent improvement. According to the Ministry of Health, the cardiovascular mortality is 2.5 higher for Māori. They also have the highest levels of unmet needs of any population group.

New Zealand Health Minister on Maori Health Authority
Andrew Little, New Zealand Health Minister, announcing the abolition of all district health boards to set up Health NZ and the creation of a Māori Health Authority

The reasons for this health inequity are multiple, complex and some lie in socioeconomic factors.

But in 2019, a tribunal established in 1975 to investigate breaches in the protection of Māori released a report about the healthcare provided to Māori. It interviewed more than 200 claimants who had health-related grievances. The report concluded that “the framework fails to state consistently a commitment to achieving equity of health outcomes for Māori“. And despite “enormous” amount of money spent on the health sector in the last 20 years, it yet provided “little measurable improvement to Māori health outcomes“. As a consequence, “much of the evidence […] indicates that the framework is institutionally racist“.

One of the most prominent issue identified was that “Māori primary health organisations were underfunded from the outset“. Meeting community leaders’ expectations, the tribunal therefore recommended the government to explore “the concept of a stand-alone Māori Primary Health Authority“.

Not fixing a broken system

With this new independent body, the community expect better access to a wider range of services so that they don’t need to travel far for treatment for instance.

But some experts disagreed on the solutions for solving health inequalities between Māori and non-Māori.

The nationalist party didn’t favor the creation of a second health system, considering it would be better to provide a better framework for Māori health inside the same system.

I don’t want us to be wasting our time, energy and effort trying to fix up a system that’s broken” had told Tureiti Lady Moxon, a Māori community leader who had initiated the Waitangi tribunal inquiry report in 2019.

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