Māori tamariki continue to suffer most from health inequities, new research shows

By Simone White, Senior Communications Advisor

23 January 2023

Category: Media releases


The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners is calling for urgent action to reduce health inequities for Māori, particularly Māori tamariki, following the release of new research from the Universities of Auckland and Otago last week.

The research found that Māori tamariki were unable to engage with primary healthcare, outpatient care, medicines and laboratory investigation to the same degree as non-Māori and had higher rates of avoidable hospitalisations and deaths. Perversely this has saved the health sector millions of dollars each year.

Dr Rachel Mackie, Chair of Te Akoranga a Māui, the College’s Māori representative group says, “The findings from this research show us nothing new or surprising, and that is the problem. We have known how the health system fails to deliver appropriate levels of care for Māori for decades, we constantly raise the issue, and it is still not being addressed.

“Equity is a major health concern and Māori are worse off because not enough is being done. Māori tamariki are our future and they deserve to have the same outcomes in their health. The problem is not just in the hospitals either. The Ministry of Health’s 2019/20 New Zealand Health Survey reported Māori adults had the highest prevalence of not being able to book an appointment at their usual general practice within 24 hours, which often will affect the whole whānau.

“We need to be constantly reflecting on and changing how we deliver care in our communities, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution for reducing health inequities, but addressing the well documented barriers would be a good start.”

Dr Bryan Betty, the College’s Medical Director says, “It’s crucial for all New Zealanders to have access to a general practitioner. Our specialist skills allow us to often catch conditions and symptoms early and treat them to keep our patients healthy. We know that when people have easier access to GPs they reduce the risk of being hospitalised.

“If we look at rheumatic fever, a disease known as the disease of poverty, it is a devastating childhood illness that can cause a lifetime of poor health, including heart failure, and we know it disproportionally affects Māori children compared to non-Māori children.

“It is unacceptable to have these rates of rheumatic fever in this day in age in New Zealand. As GPs we take our duty of care to provide comprehensive, equitable and timely health care to all New Zealanders very seriously. But we can’t do it alone.

“We need to work together to protect our tamariki from poor health and health discrimination.”