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Mita Ririnui

24 August, 2006

Better oral health for Maori

Marae could play a key role in addressing the urgent need among Maori in oral health care as part of the Labour-led government’s new strategic vision says Associate Minister Mita Ririnui.

"Much has been written about the poor health status of Maori - sadly this extends to the state of our children's teeth and gums. This showed up very clearly in a 2004 review of Maori children's oral health. So any initiatives to enhance oral health services are of considerable interest to us," Mita Ririnui said.

Good Oral Health for All, for Life: The Strategic Vision for Oral Health in New Zealand anticipates community-based oral health services, a proportion of which will be mobile rather than fixed. They will provide outreach services including oral health promotion and treatment services.

"For many Maori this is likely to mean services coming to the people - we could, for example, expect to see mobile clinics on site at a marae, or at some or our most rural and hard-to-reach schools," Mita Ririnui said.

"We know that a child's oral health gives us a good idea of what their oral health as an adult is likely to be. We also know from research that poor oral health may be linked to other health issues, such as cardiovascular disease.

"Under the policies of the National government in the nineties there was a significant deterioration in the state of the teeth of some of our young children – especially among Maori," Mita Ririnui said.

"During the 1990s they failed to invest in services, let clinics around the country collapse, oversaw the loss of half our dental therapist workforce which drove an increase in oral health disparities.

"We know that one of the reasons for our poor oral health is that people have difficulty getting to local services. Outreach health services including population health promotion strategies and Mobile Dental units offer a great opportunity to redress this."

  • Health Minister Pete Hodgson's media statement announcing the action plan to establish new Community Oral Health Services is here
  • Attached: background information on oral health in New Zealand
  • Good Oral Health for All, for Life: The Strategic Vision for Oral Health in New Zealand is published by the Ministry of health and available on the publications page of their website.

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