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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Data collection helps set health priorities

A leading researcher is warning changes in data collection could mean Maori health issues get a lower priority.

Paparangi Reid says a new report on the effect of ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities on mortality between 1981 and 2004 is a valuable indicator of where resources need to go.

The report, by Otago University and the Ministry of Health, found the Maori mortality rate grew during the 1980s and 1990s to almost twice the Pakeha rate, but the gap may now be closing up.

Dr Reid says since the data was collected, the Ministry has switched from looking at inequalities to a whole of population approach.

That can be misleading.

“Cancer of the cervix is the ninth most common cancer among New Zealand women but it’s third for Maori, so once we start doing the top five it goes off the scale but it’s really big for us and so if we take a whole of population approach, we often miss what’s really important for us as Maori,” Dr Reid says.

UN REPORT NO CAUSE FOR WHAKAMA

The leader of New Zealand First says the Government has no need to feel embarrassed about a critical report on New Zealand's race relations.

Drawing on submissions by groups like Treaty Tribes Coalition and the Maori Party, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination identified several areas of concern, including the legal status of the Treaty of Waitangi, ... continuing disagreement over the Foreshore and Seabed Act ... and the over-representation of Maori in the prison population.

Mr Peters says the committee failed to understand how New Zealand's constitutional and political system works, including the increased number of MPs of Maori origin elected under the MMP system.

“Those developments, surely people can see that they represent progress and so to paint the Maori as some sort of downtrodden victim in a democracy like New Zealand is demonstrably and palpably wrong,” he says.

Mr Peters says progress is so good, it may be time for Maori to start debating whether the Maori seats should go.

CRASH COURSE FOR ARTS ENTREPRENEURS

South Auckland artists are getting a chance to fine-tune their creative and business skills.

Five artists, including Ngati Porou fashion designer Carol Stainton and multi-media artist Leilani Kake, make up the first intake of the Arts regional Trust-funded ART source programme.

Director Candy Elsmore says they will get mentoring, networking and support.

“We also have a workshop programme which brings in industry specialists to talk to them about some meaty topics which are going to be pretty much about something they are all going to need to work on like marketing your product, protecting and knowing your rights, basically getting out there and raising your profile, marketing yourself and your work,” Ms Elsmore says.

ART source is targeting creative people with a track record who have a new project to launch.

LOAN PREDATORS TAGETING MAORI FOR BASIC NEEDS

A poverty activist says a report on loan sharking in Pacific Island communities could apply equally to Maori.

The report was slipped out with little fanfare by Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel last Friday.

John Minto says the government's approach seems to be to distribute a few information brochures and review advertising rules.

He says the assumption seems to be that people go to fringe lenders in emergencies, but the report makes it clear that expensive debt is normal for many low income families.

“The loans that were being taken out were being taken out for day to day living expenses, for grocery bills, for power bills, and second most common reason for borrowing was cars, and in each of these cases people are really being screwed blind,” Mr Minto says.

Stronger action is needed, such as capping the maximum finance rate, making lenders prove that borrowers can replay loans, and making cheap loans and budgeting advice available through Kiwibank.

AGE COHORT TO BE RESEARCHED

Auckland University researchers want to know why some Maori reach old age.

Ngaire Kerse from the medical and health sciences faculty says the number of people in the oldest age group is set to double over the next five years.

For non-Maori that means people over 85, but for Maori, making your 75th birthday puts you in the oldest age category.

She says the Advanced Age Cohort Study is initially looking for 100 Maori and Pakeha volunteers from the Lakes and Eastern Bay of Plenty districts.

“We're very interested in how these older people got there, and how they can help the next generation’s work as far as advice about ways of living and lifestyles that have helped them age so successfully,” associate professor Kerse says.

By looking at the old people's health status, their social support networks and their living environment, the study could help policymakers and service providers find ways to improve the quality of life of New Zealanders as they aged.

COURTS SHOULD CONSIDER MAORI CULTURE

A leading criminal lawyer says the courts need to take more account of Maori cultural principles during trials and sentencing.

Peter Williams QC is endorsing the finding of a United Nations committee that cultural rights are being overlooked.

The Sentencing Act allows cultural factors to be considered, but few Maori ever take up the option.

Mr Williams says that's because the whole system forces defendants into a monocultural mould.

“We in New Zealand impose a prototype of European culture when we make a scale of judgment, and sometimes we’ve got to break the mould and we’ve got to look at other cultures and understand them and bring principles into play which may have a very important effect on the outcome of the case,” Mr Williams says.

Cultural factors can change the outcome of a case, particularly when defendants are making please of mitigation when they're sentenced.

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