As a population group, Māori have on average the poorest health status of any ethnic group in New Zealand. As such, Men’s Health Week has a strong focus on improving the health of Māori men in the context of whānau ora.
Māori men fare poorly compared with other New Zealanders on a number of health indicators:
- In 2005–2007, male life expectancy at birth was 79.0 years for non-Māori and 70.4 years for Māori, a difference of 8.6 years.
- The death rate for Māori males is approximately twice that of non-Māori males.
- Leading causes of death for Māori men include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory disease.
- Māori men are 1.5 times more likely to be current smokers than men in the total population.
In order to improve Māori men’s health it is necessary to understand and address the root causes of these inequalities. It is well documented that Māori men have poorer access to the social determinants of health (such as education, employment and income) than non-Māori men.
In addition, Māori are less well served by the New Zealand health care system, not just in terms of access but also in relation to the quality of care provided.
The underlying causes of these inequalities relate to New Zealand’s colonial history, social marginalisation and racism at a number of levels. This represents a breach of the rights of Māori men. As well as empowering Māori men to take steps to improve their health, it will be necessary to address these broader social factors and ensure health care services deliver effectively to Māori men.
What these negative statistics obscure is the enormous potential that Māori males have. Being a healthy Māori male is about drawing strength from one’s cultural identity and heritage while at the same time being a global citizen with the ability to succeed in many different ‘worlds’. Improving wellbeing for Māori males means removing the barriers to achieving these goals.
There is a lot of passion and energy in Māori communities around advancing Māori men’s health; this needs to be supported at all levels of society so that the full potential of Māori males can be realised.