Northland Maori are two-and-a-half times more likely than non-Maori to die of treatable illnesses but a Whangarei woman with diabetes says while the statistics are sad, it is not surprising.

Northland District Health Board says the statistics reflect a range of social issues faced my Maori. The NDHB's Maori Health Profile 2015 is among 20 profiles commissioned by the Ministry of Health nationwide. Lead researcher Bridget Robson said they were a reminder of the "stark inequalities in health".

"They provide a useful base for identifying key issues and planning actions to improve Maori health," Ms Robson said.

Amenable mortality (deaths potentially avoidable through health care) was 2.7 times higher for Northland Maori as for non-Maori, or 122 more deaths per 100,000, according to the Northland profile. The avoidable hospitalisation rate was 47 per cent higher for Maori than for non-Maori. That equates to more than 3400 Maori hospital admissions per year which were avoidable. Illnesses under this profile are ischaemic heart disease (IHD), diabetes and certain cancers.


Whangarei woman Flo Higgins, 53, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes only two years ago. She was not surprised Maori were more likely to die of treatable illnesses, with a range of factors, including affordability, people being stubborn and lack of support.

"It costs me $17 for each doctor visit and about $5 for my prescriptions plus gas to get to appointments. While it does not affect me, if you're struggling to put food on the table to might be a struggle. I also have family members who have just decided not to take their medicine. I think some people think they don't need it so there needs to be more awareness on what illnesses do to the body," she said.

Ms Higgins said while she has nothing but praise for the public health system, some form of Maori support would be beneficial.

"I think it's ingrained in us to want the fattiest pork bone or to put so much sugar in coffee. I think there needs to be a change in attitude," she said.

Sam Bartrum, acting chief executive of Northland DHB, said the statistics were directly related to the social and economic determinants for health, and reflected that many Northland Maori tend to reside in the poorest communities. "Non-Maori in Northland are more advantaged than Maori across all socioeconomic indicators such as employment, income, education and housing, as well as health outcomes," he said.

Mr Bartrum said eliminating health inequities was the responsibility of all providers and all health professionals working in the health sector. He said the poorer health outcomes for Maori could only be partially be addressed by the health sector.

He said NDHB was running a range of programmes to address health inequalities including Neighbourhood Healthcare Homes - a project aiming to lead the development of a new model of care in primary health, which is well-connected, patient and whanau centred.

In 2013, 55,200 Maori lived in the NDHB region - 34 per cent of the district's total population - with half aged under 25.