Community Scoop

New Asthma Foundation National Maori Health Manager

Press Release – Asthma Foundation

Sharon Cavanagh, The Asthma Foundation’s new National Maori Health Manager, has a strong new vision for helping Maori with respiratory conditions. “Prevention is the key. We need to make asthma and respiratory conditions a health priority.5 March 2012

New Asthma Foundation National Maori Health Manager
More needs to be done to improve Maori respiratory health

Sharon Cavanagh, The Asthma Foundation’s new National Maori Health Manager, has a strong new vision for helping Maori with respiratory conditions.

“Prevention is the key. We need to make asthma and respiratory conditions a health priority. We are lobbying strongly for healthier homes and better laws to stop cigarette smoking. All the research has been done on social determinants, now we need to get on with fixing the problem” says Sharon.

“But it’s not just up to the Government to make these changes, we as Maori need to take responsibility for our health and that of our tamariki and whanau”. The Asthma Foundation’s big goal is to see Maori stop smoking by 2020.

Sharon affiliates to the iwi Ngapuhi, Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu.

Sharon is supported by a strong Maori Reference Group who sit alongside the Asthma Foundation Board and provide strategic advice on Maori health to the Board and management team.

New Zealand has some of the worst asthma statistics in the world – with 1 in 4 children with asthma and 1 in 6 adults – affecting over 600,000 kiwis. Maori are disproportionately represented in these statistics. While asthma rates are similar in all children, Maori children tend to have more severe asthma and have twice as many hospital admissions. For adults, nearly 1 in 4 Maori have asthma compared with nearly 1 in 7 non-Maori.

Alongside this is the very real fact of poverty among children in New Zealand and the diseases, such as asthma, which are common amongst our poorest and most vulnerable.

Therefore the Asthma Foundation has highlighted Maori respiratory health as a strategic priority. “Until we address the poor rates for Maori health, we will never address respiratory health issues overall” says Angela Francis, Chief Executive of the Foundation.

Improving Maori respiratory health, including reducing Maori smoking, will be a challenge.

“We need to ensure that our tamariki and their whanau work together with their health providers and Asthma Societies using the whanau ora approach which takes an entire whanau view, and works with the entire whanau in a way that works for them”.

Sharon knows this challenge is one that’s worth undertaking, “what could be more rewarding than whanau telling us how they can meet those challenges and reap the rewards – healthy and well Maori?”

Understanding your asthma, immunising children against influenza each year, working with health professionals to develop a treatment plan, taking treatment as prescribed and not exposing tamariki to smoke are all important steps in helping to manage asthma.

The Asthma Foundation has 17 affiliated Societies and Trusts nationally who can help you manage your asthma. Go to the Asthma Foundation website to find your nearest Society.

Asthma Facts:

• One in six New Zealand adults and one in four of our children experience asthma symptoms. (Adding up to more than 600 000 Kiwis.)
• Asthma is the most common cause of admission to hospital for children.
• Hospitalisation rates for asthma have more than doubled in the past 30 years.
• The prevalence of asthma is similar for Maori and non-Maori children; however, the rate of asthma in adults is higher for Maori (22 percent) than non-Maori (15 percent).
Hospital admissions are twice as common for Maori as for non-Maori.
• Maori and Pacific Island children with asthma tend to have more severe asthma.
• Studies have linked socio-economic disadvantage with difficulty in accessing primary health care needs, leading to hospital admission for asthma.
• Forty-five percent of Mäori are daily smokers, compared to 29 percent of Pacic people and 20 percent of other New Zealanders (from Quitline Key Facts Sheet)

About the Asthma Foundation

The Asthma Foundation is New Zealand’s not-for-profit sector authority on asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

We advocate to government and raise awareness of respiratory illnesses, fund research for better treatments and educate on best practice. We provide resources on our website and support our 17 affiliated Asthma Societies in providing education, support and advice.


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