The Medical Council of New Zealand, in partnership with Te Ohu Rata O Aotearoa (Te ORA), has released an independent
research report outlining findings on the current state of cultural safety and health equity delivered by doctors in
Aotearoa New Zealand.
The report, based on the experiences of Māori patients, was released today alongside a range of recommendations from Dr
Curtis Walker, Chair of the Medical Council and Deputy Chair of Te ORA, and Professor David Tipene-Leach, Chair of Te
Dr Walker says the report forms the baseline from which a wider evaluation will be undertaken over time, but clearly
indicates the variable experiences of Māori patients and whānau and the significant barriers to overcome in order to
achieve health equity.
“While this report offers an insight into current practice that we can learn from, it is only the first step on this
long journey,” Dr Walker says.
“We know there is much work to do to address big issues such the privilege Pākehā receive in their healthcare and the
under-privilege of Māori, accessibility of services, the importance of wairuatanga in health care, and empowerment of
Māori to make decisions about their own health.”
Professor Tipene-Leach says improving equity of health outcomes in Aotearoa requires first that we acknowledge that
racism exists and that current inequities are not acceptable.
“Colonisation and systemic racism has had a significant effect on health outcomes and we need to understand that
inequity is deep-seated in our society, it is complex and it can impact on patient engagement in their health care and
the choices they make,” Professor Tipene-Leach says.
The report also outlines the effect of ‘cultural loading’ on Māori doctors – the often unrecognised additional cultural
demands placed on them on top of their day to day clinical work – on the responsibilities they hold for their own
whānau, hapū or iwi or advisory roles in the wider community.
Dr Walker says the Medical Council is working on ways to offer greater support for Māori doctors during training and to
keep them in practice. Council is also an advocate for our medical workforce to reflect our communities.
“We need to make sure we are working in true partnership with Māori, to be bold enough to make large scale change and
work together to aim for a just society that is equitable and fair, and leads to better health outcomes for our people,”
Dr Walker says.