Health inequity concerns raised by Race Relations Commissioner

Health inequity concerns raised by Race Relations Commissioner

September 21, 2021

The Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has called on the government to respond to concerns around health inequity from the Pacific community.

Mr Foon wrote to the Minister for Covid-19 Response, Chris Hipkins, to express his unease over the situation. 

The commissioner commended those involved in the Covid-19 response and their efforts to keep communities safe but underlined that Pacific communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly in South Auckland, had borne the brunt of the inequitable health and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. 

“Pacific people continue to experience significant and long-standing health inequities. This has been brought into sharp relief by the high rate of Pacific people infected in the current Delta outbreak,” he wrote.

Mr Foon said the pandemic confirmed the importance of health equity for Pacific people as well as other communities like tangata whenua. 

The commissioner said until health equity is achieved, the burden of future outbreaks will continue to fall on communities such as from the Pacific.  

Mr Foon said under international conventions the government recognises the right of all people to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. 

“This includes the right to a system of health protection that gives everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the highest attainable level of health with special attention to given to issues of non-discrimination, equality and vulnerability.”

In this light Mr Foon encouraged the government to prioritise funding and public health resources in South Auckland which remains the front line in the battle against Covid-19. 

He also suggested any strategy needed to be designed to specifically account for the needs of Pacific communities that live there. 

“I support calls from Pacific health experts and community leaders advocating for more targeted community-led testing, and the allocation of more resource and funding to Middlemore Hospital.”  

Mr Foon’s letter came after community leaders raised issues with him around Pacific families who were reportedly struggling in MIQ facilities sometimes due to a breakdown in communication.  

He urged the Ministry of Health to investigate and report back on how such families’ needs will be met in the future.