I’m not convinced a brand new standalone Maori health authority, with a budget in the billions, is necessary. Nor prudent. Nor a game changer for Maori health outcomes.
The agitators for it say it’s a must, because our current healthcare system is racist and produces deep inequity.
But its politically convenient to blame all Maori health indicators on the system. On systemic racism and unconscious bias. I don’t swallow it as a catch-all way to explain the disparities.
Let me give you a very topical example.
Maori smoking rates. They remain stubbornly high, as Ayesha Verrall pointed out last week.
Among all New Zealand women, eleven per cent smoke. Yet a third of Maori women smoke.
What about the blokes. Among all men, the figure is 12%. For Maori men, 25%.
Now we all have access to the same help to quit smoking. Whether it’s taxpayer-funded patches or gum, therapy and counselling through the likes of Quitline. Similarly, we all have access to cost-effective alternatives, like switching to vaping. You may recall, it was absolutely the circuit breaker for me.
So how does a new bureaucracy, a stand alone agency charged with overseeing Maori health make a jot of difference to the number of Maori who stubbornly remain shackled to smoking? How does that in itself, magically turn the dial and transform behaviour?
Surely, it comes down to the individual. Self-will. Personal responsibility. The determination to take charge of your own lifestyle. You make the change. You shape the outcome. Ultimately, it’s up to you to quit smoking.
So how does this multi-billion dollar political trophy, waiting in the wings this morning, make a skerrick of difference to that brute reality? How is a shiny new Maori health authority in itself, a solution?