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Higher life expectancy for Maori not good enough

Jun 19th, 2015 | By | Category: Diversity, Editor's Picks, Featured Article, Features, News

Ngati Toa Kaumatua, Taku Parai.

LIFE expectancy is increasing for Maori, but there is still a lot of work to be done say two Porirua men working in the health field.

The gap between Maori and non-Maori life expectancy at birth has narrowed to 7.1 years (average of male and female combined) in 2012–14.

This compares with 8.2 years in 2005–07, according to the New Zealand Period Life Tables: 2012–14 released by Statistics New Zealand last month.

Life expectancy at birth is 77.1 years for Maori females and 73.0 years for Maori males, compared with 83.9 years for non-Maori females and 80.3 years for non-Maori males.

Ngati Toa Kaumatua Taku Parai (right) works in primary health and says the statistics for Maori living longer has improved, but it is still nowhere near as good as non-Maori.

“I think it has come down to a variety of factors. One is that we are living longer because we are more aware of the importance of eating better.”

“Exercise is another one, taking better care of our self,” Parai says.

However Mr Parai would like the gap between Maori and non-Maori life expectancy to be a lot better.

“It still doesn’t take away the fact that we are, by enlarge, still suffering the most in our country through all determinates of health, such as cardiac, asthma, and diabetes.”

“Obviously non-Maori are in the higher income bracket.

“They can afford better food, they are more aware than we are in terms of how important it is to get to a doctor without any delay, and that’s all around affordability and costs, as a barrier for our people,” Parai says.

He says some of the barriers Maori face today could have been avoided.

“The Treaty of Waitangi says in Article Three, that the Queen promised our people that we would have the same opportunities as British subjects, which means, why don’t I have equal or the same health outcomes as my Pakeha Treaty partner?”

“Colonial government, through to the governments of the last century, have dragged their feet in terms of realising the resource’s that is required for our people to get up to the same level as non-Maori.”

“They have never been forthcoming with those resources which is why we still lag behind them in terms of our health parity.”

“If we signed the Treaty we should have the same outcomes as British subjects, so I don’t know what happened there,” Mr Parai said.

Nearly one-quarter of the gains in life expectancy were due to decreased death rates for both males and females aged 60–69 years.

Females in particular experienced lower death rates at the older ages (70+), while males made greater improvements than females in ages 20–49 years.

According to Mortality and demographic data 2011, age-standardised death rates from chronic rheumatic heart disease and diabetes were substantially higher for Māori than for non-Māori.

Age-standardised death rates were also significantly higher for Māori from lung cancer, cervical cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases (including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and hypertensive disease.

In contrast, Māori had lower age-standardised death rates than non-Māori from melanoma, and pneumonia and influenza.

Cancer Society New Zealand’s National Men’s Health Coordinator, Steve Kenny, says the state of Maori health depends on other economic and social factors around them, such as employment and housing.

“It’s good to have community led and run programs and it’s also about improving our places to walk, cycle, and run, while improving our urban design so we’ve got really good lights to be able to walk at night time.

“We need wider bicycle paths, walking paths and things like that.”

“If you go into the poorer areas of Porirua, they don’t have any of that, there’s just houses and houses and no safe way for them to be walking and running around.”

Mr Kenny also works as a Ngati Toa representative for the Takapuwahia Village Strategy committee.



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