A recent study has sought to understand smoking trends among nurses and doctors in New Zealand and has identified disparities between Māori and non-Māori healthcare workers. The Otago University study, led by Dr Richard Edwards and colleagues, found that by 2013 doctors and the majority of nursing sectors had achieved the Smokefree 2025 goal of less than 5% smoking prevalence. However, the smoking rate of Māori nurses in particular remained high.
"In public health we know that universalism in health policy and the design of interventions can increase inequities," says Lance Norman CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora. "If we look to the example of SUDI prevention, when awareness campaigns were first established they took a ‘one size fits all’ approach. This worked for non-Māori New Zealanders, but actually entrenched disparities for Māori. We need to remember these lessons in tobacco control if we are going to achieve Smokefree 2025 for all New Zealanders."
"This study shows that smoking rates amongst Māori healthcare providers is declining, but there are nevertheless inequities. Ethnicity is not a marker for health- these disparities reflect the lower economic and social conditions Māori are more likely to live in- even healthcare workers."
It is widely recognised that Māori smoking cessation is a substantial public health focus. However, these findings support the call to sharpen the focus to specific groups like nurses who suffer disproportionately, if real improvement is to be made. Norman explains "Māori medical professionals are at the frontline of primary healthcare so we need solid interventions for staff that reflects our needs and aspirations".