Improving Māori health is an important area of focus for all health services and providers within Aotearoa New Zealand. This page outlines some of the definitions, issues and sector resources, including health information in te reo Māori.
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Definition of Māori ethnic population
As defined by Statistics NZ, ethnicity is the ethnic group or groups a person identifies with or has a sense of belonging to. Māori ethnic population is the population who identify themselves with Māori ethnicity. It is a measure of cultural affiliation (in contrast to race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship).
Equity is defined by the World Health Organization as the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people. The concept acknowledges that not only are differences in health status unfair and unjust, but they are also the result of differential access to the resources necessary for people to lead healthy lives.
Within New Zealand, some gains have been made towards health equity over the past 20 years, such as equal or better immunisation rates for Māori children. However, as outlined in He Korowai Oranga Māori Health Strategy 2014, more work needs to be done to achieve health equity for Māori and for all New Zealanders. This work includes collaborating across sectors to make progress towards this goal. The same report notes that:
- Māori life expectancy is considerably lower than that for non-Māori
- mortality rates are also higher for Māori than for non-Māori at nearly all ages
- Māori health status remains unequal with non-Māori across almost all chronic and infectious diseases, as well as injuries, including suicide.
Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020–2025 gives practical effect to He Korowai Oranga 2014. The plan is underpinned by Te Tiriti and the principles of tino rangatiratanga, equity, active protection, options and partnership.
Whakamaua is underpinned by the Ministry’s new Te Tiriti o Waitangi Framework, which provides a tool for the health and disability system to fulfil its stewardship obligations and special relationship between Māori and the Crown.
Resources on health equity for Māori
Cultural competence, partnership and health equity symposium NZ Medical Council and Te Ora, NZ, 2019
He ara hauora Māori – a pathway to Māori health equity NZ Medical Council, NZ, 2019
Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti o Waitangi
Since its signing in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi has come to be considered a “statement of the individual and collective rights of Māori, the Crown’s responsibility to Māori, and a charter for New Zealand as a whole”. The Treaty guarantees Māori equal access to national resources, and can be seen to require the government to ensure that Māori have “at least the same level of health as non-Māori”.
The Māori Health Review is a regular update that features the latest research in the area of Māori health. It costs nothing to subscribe to and is available for health professionals and anyone with an interest in Māori health.
Getting better – a year in the life of a Māori medical student is a podcast in which trainee doctor and award-winning writer Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) travels to the front lines of healthcare in New Zealand, where life and death decisions are made every day and where the statistics clearly show Māori are suffering: Māori die younger, get chronic illnesses earlier and receive less care than non-Māori.
Whiti Te Rā: A guide to connecting Māori to traditional wellbeing pathways A thematic analysis produced 6 themes or pathways towards wellbeing for Māori: te reo Māori (Māori language), taiao (connection with the environment), wairua (Māori spiritual beliefs and practices), mahi-a-toi (Māori expressive art forms), take pū whānau (Māori relational values) and whakapapa (intergenerational relationships). Journal of Indigenous Wellbeing, Feb 2021