Grim picture painted of young Maori health

The report found that the rate of hospital admissions for young Maori with rheumatic fever was 23 times higher than non-Maori admissions. Photo / Thinkstock
The report found that the rate of hospital admissions for young Maori with rheumatic fever was 23 times higher than non-Maori admissions. Photo / Thinkstock

Young Maori are being admitted to hospital with acute illnesses at a significantly higher rate than non-Maori, says a report by a University of Otago research unit being released today.

The report is being hailed by Dunedin School of Medicine associate professor of Maori health Joanne Baxter as a "very important resource for the health sector".

"This is the first report to provide a comprehensive picture of disability and chronic conditions in Maori children and young people, reinforcing the importance of prevention, primary care and disability support services for Maori children and young people.

"Factors such as poor housing reinforces the continued need to address childhood poverty and inequalities in unemployment and economic outcomes," she said.

The report, The Health of Maori Children and Young People with Chronic Conditions and Disabilities in New Zealand, is the first in a series commissioned by the Ministry of Health and produced by the New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, at the University of Otago.

It found the rate of hospital admissions for young Maori - aged under 24 - for rheumatic fever was 23 times higher than non-Maori admissions.

Young Maori were almost twice as likely to be admitted to hospital for type two diabetes.

Professor Baxter, who was part of the team that interpreted the data, said the report had significant implications for family and health services.

"I think these figures would make anyone feel concerned and the cases appear to be more frequent. No one wants to see the long term implications [of these illnesses]."

Between 2005 and 2009, 416 young Maori were admitted to hospital with acute rheumatic fever compared with 62 non-Maori.

In the same period, 173 young Maori were admitted for bronchiectasis compared with 162 non-Maori, which translates to young Maori being admitted 5.4 times more per 100,000 head of population.

The figures were gathered from hospital admission data, not through GPs or specialists, suggesting the numbers represented were an "under count".

"It highlights that there is a problem there but there are many opportunities to tackle this," Professor Baxter said.

Child and Youth Epidemiology Service director Elizabeth Craig, whose unit provided the data for the report, said there needed to be urgent changes.

"There needs to be a closer look at housing policies with heating and insulation. There also needs to be better access to GPs and after- hour services."

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES

- NZ Herald

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