Friday, March 23, 2012

Unacceptable inequalities

Last month, Stuff reported on an upcoming article in The Lancet, the medical journal, which showed that infectious disease rates had doubled in New Zealand over the past twenty years, with significant etnic inequalities, while they had been falling every where else. Now the article has finally made it into print [summary] - alongside a piece from The Lancet's editors calling on the government to solve the problem:

The apparent widening of long-standing health disparities based on economic position and ethnicity in a country that has repeatedly tried to narrow differences is disappointing and prompts questions about the effectiveness of current policies for health equity.


Disparities have changed little for either the Māori or for Pacific peoples (who together constitute a fifth of the population in New Zealand) in the past two decades. More effective solutions are needed.

What might those solutions look like? The authors of the article have a few ideas:
These findings support the need for stronger prevention efforts for infectious diseases, and reinforce the need to reduce ethnic and social inequalities and to address disparities in broad social determinants such as income levels, housing conditions, and access to health services.
Unfortunately, the government is moving in the opposite direction, cutting access to social housing, cutting health funding, and cementing inequality with tax cuts for the rich and crack-downs on wages and benefits - the exact opposite of what is needed. As a result, these inequalities (and that appallingly high infectious disease rate) will persist and grow, and continue to cost us tens of millions of dollars a year.