Māori Academic contributes to indigenous global report

A world-first study into the health and wellbeing of more than 154 million Indigenous and tribal peoples globally has been launched today.

One of the authors who provided a New Zealand perspective was Bridget Robson, Associate Dean Māori from the University of Otago, Wellington.

Robson says that New Zealand has arguably the most robust data on the health of our Indigenous population in the world. Some countries, such as Sweden and Norway, have sophisticated data systems, but have not collected ethnicity data since World War II which makes it difficult to monitor the health of their Indigenous populations, the Sami peoples.

She notes that the report provides data on 28 indigenous and non-indigenous populations in 23 countries including Indigenous peoples from Africa, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Thailand, Myanmar, the Americas, Scandinavia, Circumpolar Russia, Greenland, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.

Rather than trying to compare between countries, the study focuses on health, education and low economic status and the differences between Indigenous and non-indigenous populations within the countries.

Robson says, “Although this study was unable to report trends over time, some equity indicators for Māori are improving in New Zealand. These include infant mortality, life expectancy at birth, and education attainment.

The next steps include developing data systems that support iwi and hapū to monitor health and social outcomes for their own people and rohe, incorporating Māori values and concepts of health and wellbeing.”

Some of the key findings from the study include:

  • Maternal mortality in New Zealand is low compared to that of many countries in this study, but Māori women have twice the risk of non-Māori. Low birth weight rates are higher for Māori but the gap is relatively small (a difference of 1.1 per 1000 live births).
  • Māori are twice as likely as non-Māori to live in low-income households, a key social determinant of health.
  • The study shows evidence of poorer health and social outcomes for many Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, demonstrating the need for governments to develop tailored policy responses to Indigenous health. However, the patterns are not uniform.
  • The report also makes specific recommendations for strengthening health systems to meet the unique needs of these communities. The report says that closing the economic, societal and health gaps for Indigenous people starts with increasing visibility, implementing targeted programmes and promoting self-determination. The comprehensive report contains data from 154 million Indigenous people in 23 countries around the world. This represents 50% of the global Indigenous population.