A new Ministry of Health report was released today which identified insights generated from initiatives which empowered young Māori women to become smoke free, including building trusting relationships, dismantling complex life contexts and building financial capability.

The report was conducted in partnership with various Kaupapa Māori and mainstream services with the aim of identifying new areas of opportunity that could positively impact on the rate of smoking among young Māori women. The project firstly identified the complexities of smoking and cessation, and then designed and tested ways in which stop smoking services could better reach and empower young Māori women on their quit journeys. Recommendations included shifting from a single issue focus to holistic wellbeing; mainstream to Te Ao Māori world views; deficit to strengths based considerations of wellbeing, and reframing quitting smoking to protecting whakapapa.

Hāpai General Manager of Tobacco Control, Mihi Blair (Ngāti Whātua), says that it’s encouraging to see services acknowledging the underlying reasons why wāhine might smoke, such as whānau/ whakapapa disconnect and financial strain. Blair explains that once we tackle these root causes, it’s likely we’ll also see other statistics plummet like drinking and drug harm: "These findings are a reflection of wāhine Māori being dished with an unfair burden of responsibility for the financial, emotional and day-to-day running of whānau Māori. We hear all the time in our community mahi that some see smoking as their ‘time-out’, and ‘an escape’ from the realities of life stress."

This timely report coincides with the Ministry of Health releasing updated statistics on smoking prevalence this week. These statistics indicate that while overall smoking rates have dropped to 14.9% in the last 12 months, inequities persist whereby Māori rates sit at 33.5%, down from 35.3%.

Despite the ongoing deprioritisation of wāhine Māori in healthcare and government policy, wāhine Māori are the spine by which whānau are supported, and have always been instrumental to the endurance of te ao Māori, te reo Māori and our whakapapa.

Blair states "Our survival as people is dependent on wāhine. Build on our strengths, on our resilience and watch the smoking statistics change".

Link to report: https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/addressing-challenges-young-maori...

Link to Ministry of Health Data Explorer: https://minhealthnz.shinyapps.io/nz-health-survey-2017-18-annual-data-ex...