TWN EXCLUSIVE: Big boost for Māori life expectancy

May 3, 2017

TWN EXCLUSIVE: Big boost for Māori life expectancy

Maori health general manager Naida Glavish is pleased with the latest Maori life expectancy results. Photo: Supplied / Turei Mackey

Māori life expectancy has increased at more than twice the rate of non-Māori in Auckland in the past 10 years.

The rapid growth was good news, said Waitematā District Health Board chief executive Dale Bramley. “These results show that Māori health status has improved at a faster rate than non-Māori, thereby closing the gap.”

Since 2006 Māori life expectancy has increased faster than any other ethnicity, having increased by 3.2 years in Auckland DHB, 3.3 years in Counties Manukau DHB and 2.8 years in Waitematā DHB.

Life expectancy is defined by the World Health Organisation as how long on average a person is expected to live based on current death rates.

“The gap in life expectancy between ethnic groups is a high level measure of health inequalities,” said Dr Karen Bartholomew, Auckland and Waitematā DHB clinical director of health gain.

The Auckland and Waitematā DHBs' life expectancy report, released to Te Waha Nui, revealed the gap between non-Māori and Māori had narrowed from 7.8 years in 2006 to 5.9 years in 2016.

Based on the report, the average life expectancy of European and other ethnicities across Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitematā DHBs in 2006 was 82.1 years. It had grown to 83.4 years in 2016. For Māori, average life expectancy was 74.4 years in 2006, growing to 77.5 in 2016.

Improving life expectancy and reducing the gap between different ethnic groups are key long-term goals for Auckland DHBs said Dr Bartholomew, clinical director of health gain at Auckland and Waitematā DHBs.

Dr Bartholomew explained the leading causes of death for Māori and non-Māori were cardiovascular disease and cancer. “Although Māori mortality rates are higher than non-Māori, the rates continue to decline.”

Smoking remained a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease and cancer, said Dr Bartholomew. “Māori smoking rates are approximately two times higher than non-Māori in the metropolitan Auckland region.”

She added the life expectancy improvements and reduction in the life expectancy gap were linked to preventative healthcare measures and the quality and timeliness of healthcare treatments.

Naida Glavish, general manager of Māori health at Auckland and Waitematā DHBs welcomed the report. “Narrowing the life expectancy gap by increasing Māori life expectancy more quickly is important, as the contributing factors are modifiable or preventable,” she said.

Dr Bramley said the significant narrowing of the gap was cause for optimism. “Māori life expectancy has a way to go before it achieves equity, but what these figures show is that inequalities can be reduced and are not intractable.”

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