A Bay of Plenty Covid-19 iwi response leader and candidate for Waiariki wants better government support for Māori pandemic initiatives.
Yesterdaythe New Zealand Medical Journal published new research showing Māori are 50 per cent more likely to die from the virus than non-Māori.
The study incorporated underlying health problems such as cancer, heart and respiratory conditions, as well as age and access to healthcare in the disease modelling.
The researchers from Te Pūnaha Matatini, University of Canterbury, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, University of Auckland and the University of Waikato said their estimates were conservative, and mortality rates could be higher.
In response, Taupua Waiora Māori Research Centre's Professor Denise Wilson said yesterday "to ensure Covid-19 stays out of our communities, we need a targeted equity strategy developed with our iwi, community providers, Māori health experts and government".
"Existing inequities in health conditions (like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, cancer, and smoking) contribute to Māori dying prematurely.
"Coupled with this, they face ongoing inequities in unmet healthcare needs and racism when accessing health services. These factors together with Covid-19 increases the likelihood of widespread death among Māori."
Rawiri Waititi helped lead the Te Whānau-ā-Apanui response in the eastern Bay of Plenty which involved a cordon stopping people coming in and out of the rohe borders near Tōrere in the south and Waihau Bay in the north.
Te Rūnanga o Te Whānau's Covid-19 response team relied on dozens of volunteers who ensured families had groceries, medications and manpower to support themselves during lockdown.
Waititi, who is also the Māori Party's candidate for Waiariki, said an equity strategy to support iwi responses like Te Whānau-ā-Apanui's was "absolutely" needed.
"Give the resources to the communities to look after themselves ... We proved that we could do that."
He said the iwi's "tombs" for those who died in the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic were a vivid reminder that "Māori pay the price".
"What we did was essential and critical to the survival of our people."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey said: "Even prior to Covid-19, this Government acknowledged our health system is failing Māori.
"That's why we announced 43 of 76 ministerial DHB appointments and four District Health Board chairs as Māori ... For Covid-19, we've appointed Dr Rawiri Jansen - the National Hauora Coalition clinical director - to the Covid-19 Surveillance and Testing Strategy Group."
He said this group's focus was "not only ensuring cases are rapidly identified, but guaranteeing that Māori gain effective and equitable access to testing".
"I am a staunch supporter of Māori-led solutions to any issue in our community."
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the potential impact on Māori, Pasifika and older people had been key concerns driving the pandemic response in New Zealand.
"Māori and Pacific community providers and leaders have been fundamental to a successful response."
He said "racism within the health and disability sector, and indeed anywhere, is unacceptable and needs to be addressed to ensure that all people receive equitable access to, experiences of and outcomes from healthcare".
"This is one of the key areas being addressed in important work like Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020-2025 and is highlighted as an area for action in the Health and Disability System Review and the Wai 2575 Health Services and Outcomes Kaupapa Inquiry."