Mortality rates of Aotearoa New Zealand children and young people remain inequitably distributed and the lack in reduction of these rates is unacceptable.
These are the findings of the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee (the CYMRC) in its 15th data report released today, which analyses the deaths of children and young people aged between 28 days and 24 years from 2015 and 2019.
CYMRC co-chair Dr Alayne Mikahere-Hall says over this five-year reporting period 2,666 pēpi (babies), tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people) died.
Many of these deaths are preventable. The most common individual causes of these deaths were suicide, transport incidents, cancers and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
Dr Mikahere-Hall says, ‘It is unacceptable in this day and age that Māori pēpi are six times more likely to die from SUDI compared with non-Māori, non-Pacific pēpi and Pacific pēpi are eight times more likely to die.
‘While strong progress was made in reducing mortality rates of pēpi, tamariki and rangatahi in the past, that momentum has been lost and mortality rates have remained stagnant over the past five years. We find this unacceptable.’
CYMRC co-chair Dr Matthew Reid says the current health and disability system reforms and the establishment of the new Māori Health Authority present real opportunities to address the structural changes that are needed, not only within the health system but in our society more generally.
‘This data report drives home the importance and urgency of doing more to reduce child and youth mortality. Now is the time to reduce these shocking statistics in a redesigned health system and build a greater understanding of the inequitable outcomes experienced by pēpi, tamariki and rangatahi in Aotearoa New Zealand. Government’s commitment to the reformed health system with a mandated priority to address inequities is timely. This will help to reenergise the system to focus more strongly on preventing such deaths and to support positive pro-equity approaches in line with our recommendations.
‘We know there are pockets of excellence across Aotearoa New Zealand where particularly Māori and Pacific-led health services are making a real difference and we urge the incoming new health agencies to support and spread these and similar innovations.
‘We need improved interventions in health and across government and society that are appropriate for Māori and Pacific pēpi, tamariki and rangatahi to help address the inequity.’
Dr Mikahere-Hall says higher priority must be placed on reducing these shameful statistics.
Mortality rates are also highest in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation, with those in the New Zealand Deprivation Index decile 10 (the group with the highest deprivation) three times more likely to die than those in decile 1 (the group with the lowest deprivation). The combined effect of these findings is that Māori and Pacific communities have a large burden of mortality.
‘Every pēpi deserves the very best start in life. This data report represents the lives of 2,666 pēpi, tamariki and rangatahi that have died far too young. We call on all government policy makers, funders and service providers to examine the structural differences that interrupt quality of life,’ says Dr Mikahere-Hall.