By: Nicholas Jones

Why Māori suffer worse health than other New Zealanders will be investigated by Parliament.

The Māori affairs select committee will hold an inquiry into Māori health inequalities, its chairman and Labour MP Rino Tirikatene confirmed.

The Herald understands the inquiry is likely to include a specific focus on the Government drug-buying agency Pharmac.

However, Tirikatene, MP for Te Tai Tonga, said terms of reference are yet to be agreed: “It may include a focus on Pharmac, but I don’t want to get ahead of our committee decision until terms of reference are finalised”.

Confirmation of an inquiry follows recent lobbying by advanced breast cancer sufferer Wiki Mulholland and her husband Malcolm Mulholland for access to new generation drugs, and a wider review of the Pharmac model.

Māori are twice as likely to die from advanced cancer, and Mulholland and 150 other women petitioned the Māori affairs and health select committees to fund breast cancer drugs Ibrance and Kadcyla.

The Waitangi Tribunal has been holding its own health inquiry, with claimants arguing funding inequities and institutionalised racism in the health system are making Māori sicker.

And the Government-funded perinatal and maternal mortality review committee recently found institutional bias or implicit biases “are likely to play at least some part” in explaining why extremely premature Māori, Pacific or Indian babies are less likely to be resuscitated.

The committee has recommended compulsory cultural competency training for the entire maternity and neonatal workforce to explicitly “address awareness of, and strategies to reduce and minimise the impact of, implicit bias and racism”.

Source: NZ Herald

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