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Maori parents not getting cot death advice

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/08/2016

Families most at risk of losing a child to cot death may not be receiving the health advice they need.

A report in the New Zealand Medical Journal says an unconscious bias might be to blame for Maori parents not receiving sleep safe information when engaging with health care services.

Maori babies are five times more likely to die of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy than non-Maori babies, but less than half of Maori families are being given the safe sleep advice, University of Auckland researchers found.

"Research with Maori and Pakeha GPs shows some Pakeha GPs find it harder to communicate with Maori patients and Maori are less comfortable, trusting and forthcoming in their interactions with Pakeha GPs," Carla Houkamau's report found.

They found some health providers may harbour old stereotypes that inhibit their ability to connect effectively with young Maori mothers and as a result that may cause them to withdraw from engagement services.

Only 43 per cent of Maori babies received their first five core contacts, compared with an average 57.7 per cent for all babies.

And of those only 48 per cent received the safe sleeping information.

"Typically, when there is some kind of health inequity experienced by Maori this is attributed to lower socio-economic status, poor access to healthcare services or poorer service uptake on the part of Maori," Dr Houkamau said.

"However, we believe the possibility of unconscious bias towards Maori on the part of health care providers should be considered."

Dr Houkamau said health providers need to be educated about subtle and unconscious bias and how that can affect their dealings with Maori patients.

"Although having a greater awareness of bias will not automatically eliminate it, awareness of the issues is certainly needed to open up discussion and promote understanding," she said.

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