“The establishment of a new health system and appointment of Māori and Pacific interim chief executives has brought the promise of a more equitable and responsive health system closer to reality,” says Fiso John Fiso, chair of Pacific Health Plus, a primary healthcare provider in eastern Porirua. “It has brought much optimism to Māori and Pacific communities.”
“But time is of the essence as we anxiously wait to see successful execution of the plan ‘to do better’, and delivery of a health system that ‘recognises diversity of needs and ensures equity of outcome’.
“Appointments have been made, which includes a Director of Pacific Health in the third tier of the executive; the new health strategy is signed off, which recognises needs of Pacific are not well met; and now - we urgently need action on the ground.
“Because from where I stand, change is needed at speed to alter the day-to-day realities of the Pacific population in Cannons Creek, Eastern Porirua.
“The Pacific community in Porirua is the largest in New Zealand, outside of South Auckland, and it has had many promises made over the years with very little to show for it. 21% of the population identify as Pacific, 49% live in the highly deprived area of eastern Porirua.
“Not only does this group have the worst health outcomes, they are the only population group to have had statistics worsen, despite promises, appointments, strategies and investment.
“Mortality rates of adults are 74% higher than the average; life expectancy of babies are the lowest of all groups in the Wellington region. Cardiovascular admission rates to emergency are the highest and diabetes is three times as prevalent.
“What COVID confirmed to us was that the Pacific community is the most vulnerable to health outbreaks and continues to be over-represented in hospitalisation deaths.
“The health reforms signal this will change for Pacific communities. But we must ensure these changes are timely, appropriately resourced and delivered by ‘Pacific-for-Pacific’.
“We need to see metrics improve. We need to see the 10 year trend of worsening health for Pacific people in Porirua turn the corner. We need less diabetes and heart disease and higher life expectancy, in line with the trends of other population groups.
“Now is the time, the public has been galvanized - they acknowledge the inequality, see the need for change, and recognise that our Pacific New Zealanders have the same right as all other New Zealanders to lead healthy, full lives.
“So I call on those responsible for making this massive reform a success, bring the change you have promised, and bring it quickly, before more lives are lost,” concludes Mr Fiso.