May 11, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Simpson Restructuring Could Stifle Potential To Address Inequitable Māori Cancer Care

2 min read

I have always been a fan of public radio and, in particular, Radio New Zealand. While one can question from time to time some of its reporting, generally it is solid and informative. Democracy is not just spending around 2-3 minutes every three years voting. Public radio free of commercial and political influence is essential for the democratic body politic (Source: Scoop)

Further, contrary to negative stereotypes, RNZ is innovative often refreshing itself. An example is the establishment of its new service, Local Democracy Reporting, whose recently appointed editor is Natalie Akoorie. It has undertaken some interesting reporting that drills down further beyond the headlines. This includes covering the inequity in cancer care for Māori in what are known as the five Midland district health boards (26 November). It is an example of good local reporting that is also nationally relevant.

Māori cancer diagnosis and treatment inequity

RNZ reports a recent grim warning that Māori are more likely to get cancer, will get it younger, are diagnosed later, have poorer access to treatment, and are much more likely to die from cancer than non-Māori, because of inequity in the health system.

The Midland region comprises the Waikato, Bay of Plenty Lakes, Taranaki and Tairāwhiti DHBs. Of those patients coming to their hospital emergency departments, 55% were diagnosed with lung, brain, or stomach cancer.

A project that mapped diagnosis routes between 2015 and 2018 showed only 29% of those diagnosed with lung cancer in an emergency department survived longer than one year compared to 60% referred by a GP. There is no surprise in this because diagnosis in the former diagnosis is usually discovered when the cancer is advanced, leaving treatment less effective. GP diagnosis is more likely to be earlier.

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Otaihanga Second Opinion is a regular health systems blog in New Zealand.

Ian Powell is the editor of the health systems blog ‘Otaihanga Second Opinion.’ He is also a columnist for New Zealand Doctor, occasional columnist for the Sunday Star Times, and contributor to the Victoria University hosted Democracy Project. For over 30 years , until December 2019, he was the Executive Director of Salaried Medical Salaried Medical Specialists, the union representing senior doctors and dentists in New Zealand.

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