Community hui lays foundations to lower cancer disparity in Aotearoa

May 26, 2021

Community hui lays foundations to lower cancer disparity in Aotearoa

The hui are aimed at improving Maori health, especially cancer care. Image: Pexels

Te Aho o Te Kahu is holding a series of hui across the country to lower disparities for Maori in the healthcare system.

Since February this year, the monthly hui have aimed to work with the community and Maori leaders all across Aotearoa to improve Maori health, especially cancer care.

Maori Public Health Lead at Te Ha Oranga, Danielle Griffioen says the main purpose of the hui is to empower whanau to exercise their tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty) to take hold of their hauora (health).

Ms Griffoen, who organises the hui says it’s important to create relationships with Maori providers so that our whanau know where to get help - whether that’s health or emotional support.

A 2020 New Zealand Medical Journal article showed that Maori were disproportionately represented in incident and mortality rates, particularly for lung and breast cancer.

Co-author of the article, Dr. Jason Gurney says “We have to remember that our medical system in Aotearoa is based almost entirely on the British system – and so it isn’t surprising that it is working best for the descendants of British settlers,”

Dr Gurney says “Our health workforce does not mirror the society that it is serving – around 2-3% of our doctors are Māori, whereas Māori comprise 15-20% of our patients.  That’s why our medical system can sometimes seem strange or foreign to our Māori patients,”

Lung cancer affects Maori the most disproportionately out of all cancers and is the leading cause of cancer death in Maori. More than 300 Maori lose their lives to lung cancer in Aotearoa each year.

Dr. Gurney says it is “absolutely critical” that our government meets the goals set for Smokefree 2025, especially for Maori.

“Having Māori around the decision-making table is not only critical, it is Treaty-compliant.  For too long Māori have been out the outskirts of decision-making around cancer care in Aotearoa,” says Dr. Gurney.

“But I am hopeful…the agency is doing things differently to how they’ve been done for generations.  The top council within the Agency is 50% Māori, and they have an entire branch dedicated to ensuring equity is built-in to all our cancer control measures going forward.  These are the sorts of systemic actions that lead to long-term change,” he said.

The next hui is taking place at nine o’clock tomorrow morning at Te Mahurehure Marae in Point Chevalier.

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