Coronavirus: Call for better data collection during testing of Māori

The deputy director of health for Māori says collecting Māori ethnicity data during COVID-19 testing is an absolute bottom line.

John Whaanga says there's been a real drive to increase testing across the country. Collecting accurate ethnicity data for Māori is a key part of this.

"We're certainly been clear in what our bottom-line requirements are for that information - and we're certainly making sure that information is being collected."

The Institute of Environment Science and Research is collecting testing data, and so far 4 percent of all COVID-19 positive test have been Māori.

"We had to change some of the settings there in terms of some of the information they were collecting," Whaanga says.

"Obviously it's critically important for us to know not only how COVID-19 is tracking it's way across the community in general - but how in particular it's affecting our priority groups, including Māori."

On average Māori are expected to live seven years less longer than non-Māori, and more likely to die from cancer, heart disease and to develop diabetes.

Whaanga says the ministry is looking at prevention for vulnerable groups.

"Māori are a priority - particularly those over 65, those with chronic conditions, those with respiratory illnesses for instance."

There have been reports around people being turned away from testing, but Whaanga says the Ministry of Health has made it clear to district health boards and other organisations what requirements are for testing.

"Structural racism, institutional racism is certainly something we're not going to fix overnight."

Whaanga is challenging the Ministry of Health to work alongside Māori communities and iwi providers who've taken the lead on protecting their people.

"I'm extremely proud of our people across the country - there are examples that come to me everyday where our people are doing what needs to be done to help our communities.

"We've got to be open to getting advice from iwi and Māori and Māori professionals - pointing out where we do need to do better."

The Hui