Equality for Pacific babies – “Everyone needs to be included”

Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) CEO, Mrs Debbie Sorensen, was interviewed on Radio New Zealand this week for the Midday Report to discuss a recent Government review that found Māori and Pacific children under-5 were severely under-served within the Well Child Tamariki Ora programme.

The programme has been delivered by the Royal New Zealand Plunket (now Whānau Āwhina Plunket) since 1907 and provides health and development screening for children and advice for parents from birth to five years of age.  Around 87 percent of babies born in New Zealand last year were enrolled with the programme.

Mrs Sorensen told the Midday Report that to best serve the needs of Pacific families the community will need to be heavily involved with how the programme is designed and delivered.

“Rather than trying to reform an organisation that does actually serve a large number of the population, if not our community terribly well, we really need the opportunity for our families to actually design and talk about what they need.

Traditionally health services, in particular this service, has been driven by what providers and health care workers want to do. It all circles around that. It does not consider the context in which our families live. That goes right back to our fundamental beliefs. Children do not exist on their own. Children are part of a collective effort with our aiga and whānau who look after them, therefore everyone needs to be included in their care.”

Mrs Sorensen does not suggest a reform is needed to provide equality, but a willingness to consult and action the needs of the Pacific community.

“I don’t think we are at the stage where people need to reform what they are doing. It is much more about providing the opportunity for Māori and Pacific communities to design what is required and for families to lead that and for us to be given the opportunity to actually provide those solutions ourselves.”


Date: Saturday 17 July 2021