There are no easy answers to fixing the discrimination faced by Maori when accessing public services such as health, the Human Rights Commission said today.

The comments are a response to a study published on Saturday in UK medical journal The Lancet, which showed a link between discrimination and poor health outcomes for Maori.

The study claimed that 4.5 per cent of Maori experienced unfair treatment by a health professional based on their ethnicity, compared to 1.5 per cent of Pakeha.

Its findings were based on a 2002/2003 Ministry of Health survey of 10,000 New Zealanders.

The ministry said almost all of the disparity in self reported health between Maori and Europeans could be statistically accounted for by differences in socio-economic status and experience of discrimination.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said the findings made it clear the link could not be ignored.

"The findings present a challenge to everyone, not just health agencies and government. As well as reducing inequalities we need to specifically address racial discrimination in society at large in order to improve health."

Deputy director-general of public health Don Matheson said the evidence made available through this research supported the need for the Government's Reducing Inequalities initiative, and its implementation through policies and strategies such as the He Korowai Oranga Maori Health Strategy and the Primary Health Care Strategy.

"The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme, facilitated by the Human Rights Commission is also an important means of achieving community and government cooperation to foster positive action to address racial discrimination.

"Also, quite apart from any link with health outcomes, deprivation and discrimination matter to us all as a society. Both must be addressed, recognising that deprivation may itself be a consequence of discrimination, at least in part."

- NZPA