Now is the time to take heed of inequitable mortality rates among New Zealand’s children and young people


Now is the time to take heed of inequitable mortality rates among New Zealand’s children and young people

Media release from Health Quality and Safety Commission
3 minutes to Read
Unfiltered 2021

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.


To view the summary, the full report and an infographic please go to our website. You will also find translated versions of this media release in Te Reo Maori, Samoan and Tongan here.

If any of the issues in this report are personal for you and you want to talk to someone, please contact any of the agencies and services below.

-Pīrangi koe ki te kōrero? Need to Talk? 1737 call or text

-Skylight - | For those facing loss, trauma and grief

-Le Va - | To support Pacific families and communities

- | To support Māori individuals, whānau, iwi, hapū and communities to unleash their full potential and have the best possible health and wellbeing outcomes

-SPARX - an online self-help tool that teaches young people the key skills needed to help combat depression and anxiety

-Wheturangitia - | Information for families and whānau experiencing the death a baby or child

-Youthline - 0800 376 633 | free text 234 |

-Kidsline (for children up to 14 years) - 0800 543 754 (0800 KIDSLINE) | 4-6.00 pm weekdays

You can also talk to your GP or another local health professional, friends, whānau or someone you trust.


The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC) is a statutory committee accountable to the Health Quality & Safety Commission. The CYMRC reviews and reports on deaths with the aim of reducing the deaths of pēpi, tamariki and rangatahi aged between 28 days and 24 years, and improve the quality of health, disability and other social services delivered to them.

The 15th data report considers equity as a key priority to protect tamariki Māori and Pacific children from preventable mortality. Te Tiriti o Waitangi underlies the health sector’s obligations to Māori. Treaty-based Māori rights are augmented by the broader rights of children and young people to equitable outcomes regardless of their ethnicity. A human rights-based approach to premature mortality reduction requires all those involved to reduce mortality in marginalised children and young people, and to ‘take all appropriate measures to ensure equality and protect children against discrimination’.