Victims of racism to have health tracked in $800k study

The question of whether racism affects health will be under the spotlight in a new research project from the University ...
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The question of whether racism affects health will be under the spotlight in a new research project from the University of Otago, Wellington.

The impact of racism on the health of New Zealanders will go under the microscope thanks to an $800,000 research grant to Wellington researchers.

Using data from the New Zealand Health Survey, Drs James Stanley, Ricci Harris and Donna Cormack from the University of Otago, Wellington will spend the next three years working to determine whether racism leads to poorer health across all ethnic groups.

"It is important to understand how racism affects health so that we can better intervene to reduce its negative health effects," the researchers said in a jointly-written summary.

"We know that people of Maori, Pacific and Asian ethnicities experience the highest levels of racism."

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They will recruit people who participated in the 2016/17 survey and reported experiencing racism, compare them with similar people who hadn't experienced racism, and re-interview them all about their health status in two years' time.

"We can then determine if people who experienced racism had a different change in health in this period."

They pointed out racism affects more areas than just health, "and it should be addressed and eliminated more broadly".

The Government-funded Health Research Council awarded the project $818,257 in its latest funding round.

Last week, the Human Rights Commission launched a campaign involving director Taika Waititi - in which New Zealand is ...
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Last week, the Human Rights Commission launched a campaign involving director Taika Waititi - in which New Zealand is told "racism needs your help".

Harris, of Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Raukawa and Ngai Tahu, has previously studied the impact of ethnic health inequities on Maori health.

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A report Harris co-authored in 2008, titled The Impact of Racism on Indigenous Health in Australia and Aotearoa revealed: "For Indigenous peoples, unlike white Australians and Pakeha New Zealanders, racism is a fundamental driver of health."

It found those who had experienced racism had poorer access to employment, good housing and higher exposure to toxic substances. This new study will provide insight into impacts on health into the future, the researcher said.

Harris also pointed out the health effects of racial attacks through racially motivated physical assault, along with impacts on mental health such as stress and anxiety – which can also affect the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Other negative responses to racism include smoking, alcohol and other drug use.

New Zealander of the Year Taika Waititi is the latest celebrity to get behind a Human Rights Commission campaign to snuff out racism.

"Being a bit racist is super easy," Waititi says in the wry campaign – titled Give Nothing to Racism

"Remember, the only thing that can keep racism alive – help it grow – is feeding it, nurturing it – and that's where you come in. What will you give to racism?"

Actor Karl Urban, actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand, singer Hollie Smith and Wellington Mayor Justin Lester have all lent their faces to the campaign.

One in three complaints to the Human Right Commission is related to racism, Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has said.

 - Stuff

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