Deaths and hospitalisations from heart disease continue to decline in New Zealand, a new study has revealed.

However, disparities between ethnicities continue, researchers at the University of Auckland have concluded.

Lead researcher Corina Grey said between 2006 and 2015, rates of ischaemic heart disease hospitalisations and deaths decreased in men and women in most ethnic groups.

“There is a clear, continuing decline which is really good to see. We are seeing about a five per cent decline each year for each group.”

However, Pasifika women went against the trend, she said.

“The only group in which a decline was not seen was in Pacific women, in whom death rates did not decrease.”

Primary healthcare nurse Mona Hawkins, who spent years working as a clinical nurse specialist in heart failure, said the disparity could come down to a number of factors.

She found Pasifika women often put their own health behind their family’s.

“Generally speaking, women put themselves at a lower priority in the scheme of things. They are the ones looking after everyone else.”

This lead to women often presenting to medical professionals when their symptoms were much more pronounced, and often harder to treat.

Grey said the study also found rates of death from ischaemic heart disease were higher in Māori and Pasifika people.

“What’s more, there appears to be issues with access to healthcare, with fewer hospitalisations for every death from heart disease in Māori and Pacific men and women compared to other ethnicities.”

For Māori and Pacific men, there were about three to four people hospitalised for heart disease for every person who died from the disease.

In comparison, there were about seven or eight Indian men hospitalised for every person who died from heart disease.

Hawkins said language barriers, the cost of healthcare, less healthy lifestyles, and low health literacy could also be factors to higher death rates for Pasifika people.

“If you don’t understand what is happening to your body or you can’t articulate what is happening, you don’t go and seek help until it’s too late.”

Grey said more research was needed to determine why the differences existed, and how to fix it.

“The system clearly isn’t working for some people. This is putting it out there, now we need to keep looking, keep questioning why do these differences exist.”

 

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