Racism effects health of Maori in New Zealand

June 15, 2006

Racism may have a detrimental effect on the health of Maori in New Zealand, according to a paper in this week's issue of The Lancet.

An increasing amount of research suggests that racism has major health consequences. Most of this work has been done in the USA and, more recently the UK. However, little is known about the effect of racism on health inequalities in other countries.

Martin Tobias (Ministry of Health, New Zealand), James Nazroo (University College London, UK) and colleagues assessed the effect of racism on health in two ethnic groups - Maori and European - in New Zealand. Using data from the 2002/3 New Zealand Health Survey, the researchers analysed the responses of 4108 Maori and 6269 Europeans to five questions about verbal attacks, physical attacks, and unfair treatment by a health professional, at work or when buying or renting housing. The researchers found that Maori were almost ten times more likely to experience discrimination in three or more settings than their European counterparts. The team also found that Maori were more likely to report poor or fair self-rated health, low mental health, and cardiovascular disease than Europeans even after they made allowances for differences in age and sex. When the investigators made allowances for age, sex, racial discrimination, and deprivation, however, they found that the inequalities between Maori and Europeans were greatly reduced for all health outcomes. This finding suggests that both deprivation and racism contribute to inequalities in health outcomes between Maori and Europeans.

Professor Nazroo states: "Racism, both interpersonal and institutional, contributes to Maori health losses and to inequalities in health between Maori and Europeans in New Zealand. Interventions and policies to improve Maori health and address these inequalities should take into account the health effects of racism."
See also accompanying Comment.

Contact: Professor James Nazroo, University College London phone 44 776 613 3781 or Victoria Evans, Corporate Communications, Ministry of Health, PO box 5013, Wellington, New Zealand Victoria_Evans@moh.govt.nz, phone 64 4 496 2036

Notes to editors
This article is part of an ongoing Lancet series on the health of Indigenous people.


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