Establishing a Māori health governance group to help save lives

By Taroi Black

In order for better outcomes for Māori living with cancer and have earlier detections, the Ministry of Health must ensure cancer survival equity is achieved for Māori by 2030.

That's according to Hei Ahuru Mōwai - Māori Cancer Leadership Chair, Dr Nina Scott who says Māori health leaders need to be at the forefront of decisions that impact on Māori.

"It's fundamental and we would not achieve that unless we have that in my opinion,” Dr Scott said.

The new Action Cancer Plan announced by the government earlier this week is ‘promising’, however, a strong Māori partnership is crucial says Dr Scott.

“We have lower access to protective factors and higher exposures to risk factors, poverty been one of them.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had told Te Ao Māori News during the Action Cancer Plan announcement that the government is determined to turn things around, "not only should it matter where you live in New Zealand we also need to do better by Māori and Pacific people who are diagnosed with cancer," she says. 

Māori are nearly twice as likely to die from cancer as non-Māori.

However, concerns remain high over the recent national bowel screening programme, believing it could raise inequity for Māori. Research suggests dropping the recommended entry age of screening by 10 years for Māori to 50.

Professor Diana Sarfati has been appointed as National Director of Cancer Control and told Dr Scott today that she is committed to looking at ways of creating better outcomes for Māori people living with cancer.   

"I've worked my whole life working in partnership with Māori. Much my research has been focussed on inequalities with Māori and Non-Māori so my vision of that is working in [partnership] close partnership," says Pro. Sarfati.