Pasifika health overview

Key points about Pasifika health

  • Aotearoa New Zealand has more 40 Pacific ethnic groups – each with its own culture, language and history.
  • Some common health issues include high rates of diabetes, gout, heart disease, youth mental health issues, skin infections and obesity.
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The 2013 Census recorded 295,941 Pacific people (7.4% of the total New Zealand population), up by 11.3% from the 2006 Census population of 265,974.

  • Pasifika people are younger, with over a third (35.7%) of Pacific peoples aged under 15 years, compared with only a fifth (20.4%) of the total population.
  • The median age for Pacific peoples in 2013 was 22.1 years, compared with 38.0 years for the total population.
  • Pasifika people have high rates of dying early from long-term health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, stroke and lung disease. Many of these are obesity related.
  • Auckland has the highest population with nearly two thirds (65.9%) of Pasifika people in New Zealand living in the Auckland region.
  • This was followed by Wellington (12.2%), Waikato (5.0%), Canterbury (4.3%), Bay of Plenty (2.6%), Manawatu-Whanganui (2.5%) and then Hawke’s Bay (2.1%).

Bula Sautu uses national data to show the complex contributing factors that impact on health for Pacific peoples, from maternity to end of life, using a life-course approach. The report brings together a diverse range of Pacific health and equity experts to share their views of how effectively (or ineffectively) the health system is performing for Pacific peoples.

Bula Sautu shows some of the worst inequities in the health care system but also profiles providers, communities and individuals responding creatively, brilliantly and vibrantly within the constraints imposed upon them.

The report proposes changes to be made by the New Zealand health system in 4 key areas, and some early steps for this change. It also outlines a 7-step framework for health sector organisations and services to address Pacific health.

Bula Sautu is the product of a partnership and co-development process between Corina Grey, Debbie Ryan and Api Talemaitoga for Pacific Perspectives and the Health Quality & Safety Commission.

Bula Sautu – a window on quality 2021 – Pacific health in the year of COVID-19(external link) Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2021
Improving health outcomes: Pacific consumer group’s talanoa on Bula Sautu(external link) Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2021

Although many Pacific communities are thriving, overall, Pacific peoples in New Zealand experience significant and long-standing health inequities compared with many other groups. 

Ola Manuia: Pacific Health and Wellbeing Action Plan 2020–2025(external link) was developed with input from Pacific communities, the health sector and relevant government agencies, to provide a new direction for Pacific health and improve Pacific health and wellbeing. 

The plan sets out the priority outcomes and accompanying actions for the next five years to improve the health and wellbeing of the vibrant and growing Pacific population living in Aotearoa New Zealand. The plan can be used as a tool for planning, prioritising actions and developing new and innovative methods of delivering results to improve Pacific health. 

Yavu resources provide a framework for how to have engagement that is culturally responsive and sustainable with Pacific peoples. They outline steps for effective engagement through building, nurturing and maintaining relationships. These resources can be used to improve culturally appropriate engagement with Pacific peoples. 

Pacific models of health are based on indigenous Pasifika concepts, knowledge, values and practices. Indigenous means pertaining to first or original inhabitants of a place. Māori are the indigenous people (tangata whenua) of Aotearoa New Zealand.

What are Pacific models of health?

Pacific models of health are based on indigenous Pasifika concepts, knowledge, values and practices. Indigenous means pertaining to first or original inhabitants of a place. Māori are the indigenous people (tangata whenua) of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Pasifika refers to the diverse ethnic groups in New Zealand that trace their origins to indigenous peoples of the island nations of the Pacific.

Examples of Pacific models of health

  • Kakala model – Tongan (Konai Helu-Thaman)
  • Fa'afaletui model – Samoan model (Carmel Peteru & Kiwi Tamasese)
  • Ta and Va – Tongan model ('Okusitino Mahina)
  • Fonua model – Tongan (Sione Tu'itahi)
  • Fonofale model – Pan-Pacific & Samoan (Fuimaono K Pulotu-Endemann)
  • Te Vaka Atafaga – A Tokelauan assessment model (Kupa Kupa)
  • Tivaevae model – A Cook Island model (Teremoana Maua-Hodges)

Learn more

Agnew F, Pulotu-Endemann FK, Suaalii-Sauni T, Warren H, Wheeler A, Erick M, Hingano T Schmidt-Sopoaga H. Pacific models of mental health service delivery in New Zealand(external link) Health Research Council of New Zealand, 2004
Building Pacific health workforce capacity(external link) Health Workforce Advisory Committee, NZ, 2002
Pacific cultural competencies – a literature review(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ, 2008

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Credits: Healthify Editorial Team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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