May 6, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori face a “stark and growing inequity burden” as infectious disease increases

2 min read

The publication of New Zealand research inThe Lancet today prompted a call for new strategies to reverse health disparities.

Pacific and Maori people have more than twice the risk of needing hospital care for infectious disease, write Otago University researchers in theLancetreport.

Rates for Pacific Islander and Maori populations are respectively 2.35 and 2.15 times higher than the combined rate for New Zealand Europeans and other ethnic groups, their research shows.

“Stark and growing inequity burden”

The Science Media Centre has published expert comments, including those of Wellington GP and academic Nikki Turner, who says: “There is something very wrong in New Zealand with such a stark and growing inequity burden.”

Chris Cunningham, director of Massey University’s research centre for Maori health & development, says as well as the rheumatic fever programme, preventive health strategies for Maori and Pasifika are urgently needed “if we are to reverse this disturbing trend in increasing disparities”.

Infectious disease admissions increase by 51.3 per cent

Otago public health researcher Michael Baker is lead author of the report, which shows hospital admissions for infectious diseases increased by 51.3 per cent, while admissions for non-infectious diseases increased by only 7.6 per cent (age standardised rates) between 1989 and 2008.

Lower respiratory tract and skin infections were the most common, and young and old the most affected.

Need to revisit strategies

The authors note a 2001 Ministry of Health strategic plan to reduce incidence and burden of infectious disease. They say: “Our findings show a need to revisit these strategies.”

Professor Cunningham says the report is the first to have allowed a study of causal factors for infectious diseases at a country level over a long period of social, economic and health system change.

The work was funded by the Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council.

At the University of Washington, Seattle, USA Stephen Lim, associate professor of global health and Ali Mokdad, professor, global health, told the Science Media Centre: “These findings challenge the epidemiological transition theory, whereby development is accompanied by a shift of health burden towards chronic diseases, and have enormous implications for health and social policy in New Zealand.”

Related links
Increasing incidence of serious infectious diseases and inequalities in New Zealand: a national epidemiological study, The Lancet online 20 February

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