18 Nov 2022

Action plan launched to tackle poor health outcomes among Pasifika in NZ

7:16 am on 18 November 2022
Aupito William Sio speaking at the launch of the Ola Manuia Plan

Photo: Susana Suisuiki/RNZ

A two-year plan has been launched to tackle health inequities among New Zealand's Pasifika population.

The Ola Manuia Plan will be delivered through New Zealand's reformed health entity, Te Whatu Ora, addressing care gaps that appeared from the start of the global pandemic.

Associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio said the health system has long failed Pacific peoples but he hopes the plan will enable the community to access better health care.

He said the plan is just one of many other Pacific-focused plans to lift the community's wellbeing.

"Our approach is not one thing, but it's a number of things," he said.

"We've only just started, but we've got some strong foundations - the Pacific wellbeing strategy, Pacific language strategy, and now with the interim health plan, the Pacific employment action plan, the Pacific education action plan, all of those things now are guiding officials in the work to focus a targeted approach and for the rest of the system to catch up.

"If it's not working for us, we have the flexibility to pivot to those things that matter."

Priority groups identified in the Ola Manuia plan include pregnant women, children and youth, elderly, people with long-term conditions, mental health and disabled people.

Te Whatu Ora's National Director of Pacific Health, Makerita Poutasi, said the plan has an integrated approach to Pacific people's health.

"Ola Manuia has taken a focus on both what are the health needs and what does the community see as important," she said.

Makerita Poutasi

Makerita Poutasi Photo: Te Whatu Ora

Rheumatic fever rates among Pasifika decrease

Poutasi said during the plan's development process, it was noted that there was a huge drop of Pacific peoples contracting rheumatic fever.

In a 2021 research, it showed Pacific children being 80 times more likely to develop the disease than non-Pacific children.

"Rheumatic fever has been such a critical issue and focus of previous budgets and previous approaches in the health system, there's still an active programme - particularly in Counties-Manukau," she said.

"Interestingly enough, with rheumatic fever we've had a huge drop in rates for Pacific over the period of lockdown so people won't be surprised if you're not moving around then rheumatic fever hasn't been spreading at the same rate and so the numbers have dropped.

"People told us that they want more of a holistic view of health, and focus on the social determinants, focus on what the community sees as important, so the programme for rheumatic fever is continuing, it's not particularly in the plan for specific and new action, but it is in the background."