Māori and Pacific Islanders at higher risk of hospitalisation due to COVID-19

Te Ārai member Dr Melissa Carey (Ngāti Raukawa) contributed expert commentary to media reports about a new study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal which found that Māori were 2.5 times, and Pacific Islanders 3 times more likely, to be hospitalised with COVID-19 during the 2020 outbreak, even when controlling for age and underlying health conditions. The study authors acknowledge that “the available data are imperfect, and the number of cases is relatively small, but they are nonetheless the best data currently available to understand differences in risk from infection of COVID-19 between ethnicities in New Zealand.” 

Melissa argued that the study “highlighted that COVID-19 caught the data collection system off guard in regard to ethnicity and equity issues. Aotearoa New Zealand needs to develop strategies for working better with Māori and Pacific peoples to collect, store and retain and share meaningful data”.

She notes that “it is known that ethnicity is not a measure of identity, therefore there is need to review the purpose of ethnicity or identity data.”

Melissa also pointed out that the paper does not investigate the social burden of hospitalisation when restrictions are in place, which may affect hospital admissions.


Steyn, N., Binny, R. N., Hannah, K., Hendy, S., James, A., Lustig, A., … & Sporle, A. (2021). Māori and Pacific People in New Zealand have higher risk of hospitalisation for COVID-19. medRxiv, 2020-12.

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