Tamariki Māori more likely to die of unintentional injury - study

10:28 am on 13 August 2021

Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in children in New Zealand, and tamariki Māori are 3.4 times more likely to die from accidents than Pākehā children.

Health professionals have been warning the health system is desperately stretched.

Each year around 66 children die of accidents and 7700 are admitted to hospital, the study found. Photo: 123rf

The study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found about 66 children die each year from unintentional injuries, such in car accidents or drowning.

An additional 7700 hospitalisations occur as a result of these injuries every year.

Children living with the highest levels of socio-economic deprivation had the highest rate of hospital admission following injury, and this is particularly the case for tamariki Māori, the research found.

Researchers looked at ACC data and compared it with numbers of patients going through emergency departments and being admitted to hospital.

Starship Hospital emergency paediatrician Dr Mike Shepherd said the higher rate of Māori children dying in accidents was very concerning and indicated there was inequality throughout the system.

Shepherd said it was important to find out why it was happening.

"We need work with Māori in partnership, understand why that is and work with Māori to try and change that and improve that.

He said Māori, Pasifika and low socio-economic whānau were getting access to emergency department medical care for accidental injuries.

"What is clear, though, is they're not accessing ACC in the same way that others are, so there's definite inequity there from a system perspective.

"We clearly just haven't engaged in partnership with Māori, with Pasifika, whānau to really understand their situation ... and try and prevent these injuries."

Shepherd said the system disadvantages the more vulnerable in the community.

"As an example, ACC isn't available for parents when their children are injured, so we haven't been counting that cost.

"And I think that's an example of something that worsens inequity throughout our system and worsens outcomes for Māori [and] Pasifika whānau."

The study found 257,000 children experienced unintentional injury in 2014, resulting in direct and indirect costs of almost $400 million.

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