A plan to improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealand’s growing Pacific population was launched by Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa on 13 June.
“Ola Manuia – the Pacific Health and Wellbeing Action Plan for 2020-2025 is about driving more effective and equitable health outcomes for thousands of Pacific New Zealanders who call this country home,” she said.
According to the plan, the New Zealand Government has committed to working within its health and disability system and across its health, housing, employment, education and social service sectors.
This includes providing more sustainable job opportunities, affordable housing, better education, and better access to health services for Pacific peoples.
More than one-third of all Pacific people are under 15 years of age, and of the nearly 380,000 Pacific people currently living in New Zealand, 60 percent were born in New Zealand.
The population is concentrated in urban areas, with around 66 percent of Pacific people living in the Auckland region.
Jenny said New Zealand’s Pacific peoples make up a large portion of the country’s essential workers – especially in the health and disability workforce where they literally hold many of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people in their care - yet, they themselves remain consistently over-represented across all vulnerability indicators for health and wellbeing.
"These vulnerable groups are the people Ola Manuia aims to support.”
The health and wellbeing of Pacific peoples have been impacted by issues such as socioeconomic inequities like financial and housing challenges.
According to the plan, 24 percent of Pacific people report not having enough money to meet their everyday needs, compared with 8.5 percent of Europeans. And the 2018 Census show four in 10 people in the Pacific population live in crowded households in New Zealand. Forty percent of Pacific people live in homes that are always cold compared with 18 percent of Europeans.
These issues attribute to long-term health conditions suffered by Pacific peoples such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Pacific adults have disproportionate rates of risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity and psychological distress.
And obesity rates for Pacific adults and children are the highest in New Zealand.
In addition, more Pacific children and adults end up in hospital with preventable health conditions despite having a high level of enrolment in primary health care organisations. Some of the issues experienced by the Pacific community when accessing care include difficulty in understanding health jargon and communication with health workers, and not being able to afford doctor fees and medication costs. Racism and discrimination were also identified as serious issues that stop them from going to see a doctor.
"Achieving Pacific health equity is about addressing causes not just symptoms. It is about improving how Pacific people are treated when they access services and it is about getting the level of engagement, the quality of care and the modes of delivery, right,” she said.
“The current inequities we see in Pacific health and wellbeing outcomes have no place in this country’s future. Ola Manuia challenges us to do things differently in order to realise the best outcomes for Pacific peoples and charts a key part of the course we must follow to achieve a more just, more equitable future together.”