Survey reveals barrier to health for disabled people

Survey reveals barrier to health for disabled people

December 7, 2021

The collection of specific data on the health outcomes of disabled people by the NZ Health Survey 2020/21 has been welcomed by Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.   

The data, however, confirms that barriers to equity to health and wellness for disabled people remain high, said Ms Tesoriero.  

The survey results show disabled people are:  

  • 12 times more likely than non-disabled people to self- rate ‘our health as poor’ 
  • seven times as likely to have an unmet health need after hours 
  • five times more likely than non-disabled people to suffer from psychological distress  
  • four times more likely to have an unfulfilled prescription due to cost  
  • have higher rates of unmet GP needs because of Covid-19 at 11 percent compared to 6 percent of non-disabled people. 

“The Health Survey data does not include specific indicators for tāngata whaikaha Māori. However, given that Māori have poor self-rated health, experience barriers to accessing health care and high rates of disability I have real concerns about the health of tangata whaikaha Māori,” Ms Tesoriero said. 

New Zealand, as a party to international human rights instruments, has agreed to recognise the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, Ms Tesoriero said. 

“The survey results show we fall short of these commitments to disabled people and highlight the systemic discrimination or prejudice against disabled people that puts us at profound disadvantage and disables us through systems that do not recognise or meet our needs.” 

This information highlights the need to ensure that disabled people are at the centre of decision making about how policy affects our lives.  

Efforts to address health and other disparities and barriers affecting tāngata whaikaha Māori are unlikely to be effective if they do not come from real partnerships upholding tino rangatiratanga (self-determination).  

Effective measures for Māori are those by Māori and with Māori, and which affirm Te Tiriti as a whole. Tiriti obligations in Aotearoa New Zealand are supported by international human rights, including the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

“Earlier this year I commended the announcement of the new Ministry for Disabled People from July next year, because it will give us greater visibility for disability rights across government at a senior level.  

“However, a new Ministry will not mean other government agencies have any fewer responsibilities towards disabled people. Rather, with increased capacity and collaboration, there is a stronger opportunity to promote equity for disabled people across all outcomes.   

“We must make sure that the health reforms will significantly address health inequities for us. This work will be even more important as we move to a new era in living with Covid in our communities. 

The most recent New Zealand Health survey established the large impact Covid-19 has had on the country’s mental health with an increase in mood or anxiety disorders, hazardous drinking, vaping, a reduction in healthy eating and physical activity.  

Ms Tesoriero said that while these indicators also affect the non-disabled population, disabled people are starting with poorer health and access to health systems in the first place.  

“We must address these underlying equity issues now. Covid-19 is more of a reason than ever to move at pace.  Now is the time to expedite supports, interventions and policy changes.” 

The Commission is submitting on the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill. The deadline for submissions is Thursday 9 December.