New Direction for Pacific Island People's Health

  • Don McKinnon
Pacific Island Affairs

Health Minister Bill English and Pacific Island Affairs Minister Don McKinnon today launched a new direction for improving the health of Pacific people living in New Zealand.

Mr English said: "the heart of our approach to Pacific Island health is to enable the people working at the coal face to tailor their services to make a positive difference to the negative statistics.

"Making a Pacific Difference sets the new direction in a strategy for New Zealand health services to meet the needs of Pacific Island people. We are looking to build a positive health partnership between the Government, its hospitals and policy makers, and the Pacific Island community.

"The strategy is about real action not tokenism. For too long the health system had failed many Pacific Island people.," Mr English said.

"The statistics speak for themselves with Pacific Island children more often hospitalised than the national average and their immunisation rates lower. The story is no better with other Pacific Island people with high abortion rates, high incidence of diabetes, heart disease and asthma deaths.

Mr McKinnon said he believed Making a Pacific Difference was a positive step towards a healthier future for pacific people.

"Making a Pacific Difference has been researched and compiled by Pacific people for Pacific people. The strategy introduces a Pacific Peoples Health Charter which ensures they are involved in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of health services which affect their communities.

"Pacific health is spiralling downward. I strongly encourage policy makers, funders, providers and health workers to use these initiatives to improve the health of Pacific people," Mr McKinnon said.

The strategy also provides guidance on recruiting and training Pacific health professionals.

The two ministers also launched a video aimed at boosting Pacific children's immunisation rates.

Mr English said: "the immunisation video was an example of the strategy in action. It was developed to help Pacific health professionals and community workers educate Pacific parents and caregivers about the importance of immunising their children.

"This year, the rate of measles amongst Pacific children has been more than 10 times greater than the rate of Pakeha children. That equates to a lot of unnecessary misery and risk of further complications that can be avoided if the immunisation message gets through to Pacific Island people," he said.

"That is why the video is important with versions containing interviews in Samoa, Niuean, Tonga, Cook Islands Maori and Tokelauan to help spread the message.

"The video also complements one I released earlier this year for use by Maori health professionals and community health workers to improve Maori immunisation rates," Mr English said.