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  • Writer's pictureSerena Booy

Call for investment into a Pacific and Māori Health Workforce.

Budget cuts and reduced expenditure on Health Promotion and Public Health initiatives paired with the rising epidemic of non-communicable disease among Pacific Islander and Māori populations in Australia is a crisis in itself.

Data from Queensland Health shows that compared to the Queensland population:

• the Samoan-born population has a mortality rate 1.5 times higher for total deaths and 2 times higher for avoidable deaths, and for hospitalisation rates between 7 times and 2 times higher depending on the condition

• the Cook Islands-born population has hospitalisation rates between 9 times and 1.3 times higher depending on the condition

• the Tonga-born population has hospitalisation rates between 2 times and 1.5 times higher depending on condition

• the Fiji-born population has hospitalisation rates 2 times higher for coronary heart disease and for diabetes complications

• the Papua New Guinea-born population has almost 1.5 times higher the ratio for diabetes.

• Health data on the Māori population cannot be obtained from Queensland Health collections, as this population is embedded in the ‘New Zealand’ born category. However, New Zealand data indicates that this population is likely to have a similar disadvantaged health status to the other Pacific Islanders populations

Investing in the training of a Pacific islander workforce in Australia is a smart and necessary move for several reasons.

Firstly, Pacific islander communities in Australia face significant health disparities, including higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. These health inequities are often linked to social determinants of health, such as poverty, lack of access to healthcare, and cultural and linguistic barriers. By investing in a Pacific islander health workforce, we can address these disparities and improve health outcomes for these communities.

Secondly, a Pacific islander health workforce would bring valuable cultural knowledge and understanding to the healthcare system. Pacific islander communities have unique customs, beliefs, and health practices that are not always understood or respected by mainstream healthcare providers. By having Pacific islander health workforce, we can ensure that these communities receive culturally safe and appropriate care that is tailored to their specific needs.

Thirdly, investing in a Pacific islander health workforce would help to address the underrepresentation of Pacific islander people in the healthcare workforce. Currently, Pacific islanders are significantly underrepresented in healthcare professionals in Australia, despite being one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the country. By providing training and opportunities for Pacific islanders to enter the healthcare workforce, we can promote diversity and equity in the healthcare sector.

Finally, investing in a Pacific islander health workforce would have broader social and economic benefits. It would create employment opportunities for Pacific islanders, help to build stronger relationships between Pacific islander communities and the healthcare system and ultimately improve health outcomes for all Australians.

Investing in the training of a Pacific islander health workforce in Australia is smart from a health economic perspective but is also a smart investment in the health and well-being of our communities. By addressing health disparities, promoting cultural safety, increasing diversity in the healthcare workforce, and creating economic opportunities, we can build a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system that benefits us all.

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