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Window on Pacific Peoples’ health calls for urgent system change

Wednesday, July 7, 2021   Posted in: Resources and Information By: Administrator With tags: pacific health, Report, health, services

Health Quality and Safety Commission NZ media release: 5th July 2021

A new report paints a stark picture of the health care challenges faced by Pacific peoples in New Zealand and calls for ambitious changes to the system to be made urgently.

Bula Sautu: A window on quality 2021: Pacific health in the year of COVID-19 was launched today in Parliament by Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio. The report is the latest in a series of ‘window’ publications from the Health Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission). It considers the health of Pacific peoples and provides a snapshot view of how the health system is working (or not working) for them.

The report is the product of a partnership and co-development process between the Commission and Drs Corina Grey, Api Talemaitoga, and Debbie Ryan. It includes contributions from many Pacific health and community leaders, clinicians and health workers. The Commission convened a consumer advisory group comprised of Pacific consumers on 27th May 2021 to respond to the findings of Bula Sautu. This group has developed a set of practical recommendations to further advance the report’s findings.

Bula Sautu highlights some of the worst health care inequities in New Zealand affecting Pacific peoples and the lack of discussion of these inequities in the ongoing health system reforms. The report also profiles providers, communities and individuals responding creatively and effectively within the constraints imposed upon them. This was particularly evident during the COVID-19 response, when innovation flourished.

Associate Professor of Public Health Collin Tukuitonga, Associate Dean Pacific at the University of Auckland and a Commission board member, says Pacific peoples who call Aotearoa New Zealand home have been denied their right to health and wellbeing for decades despite clear evidence that inequities exist in almost all health conditions reported.

"Pacific peoples are expected to navigate through a health system that has not been designed with or for them. Many have to effectively look after themselves, as it is impossible for them to overcome the many barriers to accessing health care. These shortcomings reflect systematic bias and racism in the New Zealand health and disability system and the lack of diversity in the health workforce.

"We need a health system that enables Pacific peoples to identify and design Pacific solutions. Leaders and decision-makers in our training establishments and professions must take decisive action to support and grow the Pacific workforce required at all levels of the system. And we need to turn around the unacceptable racism of our system; it drives inequitable health care processes and outcomes, and is enabled by the structure of the system."

Pacific Health Data and Insights Lead at Auckland District Health Board and co-author of the report Dr Corina Grey, says within the health sector there are a number of key actions organisations and individual services can take, many of them within existing resources. These actions are presented in the report as a framework to improve Pacific health.

"These key actions focus on knowing the data; delivering holistic and integrated care; improving access to health services; respectful and authentic engagement with Pacific consumers and communities; simple, clear communication; and support of the Pacific workforce," she says.

"The strengths of Pacific providers and communities were highlighted during the response to COVID-19. Pacific health and social service providers worked together with church and other community leaders to rapidly set up testing services, tailor support for contact tracing, and deliver food packages and masks to communities, working collaboratively with community leaders and other agencies to provide holistic and integrated models of care."

Dr Api Talemaitoga, a general practitioner, chair of the Pacific General Practitioners’ Network and co-author of the report, says initiatives such as this show change is possible.

"However, improvements in Pacific health and a reduction in health inequities will not happen without an ambitious change and transformation agenda.

"A strategy based on “business as usual” will not give us the change required."

Download or read Bula Sautu – A window on quality 2021: Pacific health in the year of COVID-19 (Health Quality and Safety Commission NZ).