Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa, the Māori Medical Practitioners Association, (Te ORA), welcomes the establishment of a NZ Cancer Action Plan and we congratulate the Ministry and the Minister of Health on the delivery of this. The Cancer Action Plan is a long awaited piece of work, and in its present form with the delivery of consistent and modern cancer care across regions, holds promise of much better survival for all New Zealanders with cancer.
The promise of a Cancer Control Agency reporting directly to the Minister is welcome. And we are pleased with the appointment of Professor Diana Sarfati as national director and the allocated of significant resource to begin this work. We look forward to a partnership relationship with Māori expertise and expect that the Minister of Health will partner with Hei Ahuru Mōwai (National Māori Cancer Leadership Group) for advice on appointments to, and decision-making around, the Cancer Control
Agency Board. These appointments will be crucial – and we hope to see a large number of Māori on the Board. There is certainly ample Māori expertise around.
Of importance to Maōri New Zealanders, the Action Plan sugests that there is now some potential for Māori with cancer to have better outcomes from engagement with the health system. This has not always been the case. Te ORA looks forward to NZ taking a courageous approach to screening for cancer – for example using different screening ages for Māori or Pacific people where the illness patterns say that this is the appropriate way forward.
We are aware that the real work is yet to come. We urge the new Cancer Control Agency to prioritise work on lung cancer and breast cancer where Māori disparities are large and there is much room for health gain. In addition, more serious attention to smoking cessation among Māori women, and primary HPV screening for the prevention of cervical cancer is warranted. We are aware however, that much of cancer and other illnesses, cannot be dealt with just by screening and treatment programmes alone. Much is the result of upstream drivers like poverty and institutional racism, and whilst we strive for the best services possible we know that cancer, like other illnesses and disabilities, relies on a fair society giving a fair deal to all for the best health possible.
Dr David Tipene-Leach
Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa, Maori Medical Practitioners Association
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