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Improving the quantity and quality of life for Māori with cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death for Māori. Each year, approximately 730 Māori men and women will die of cancer, five times more than will die of respiratory disease (approximately 150) and almost as many as will die of cardiovascular disease (approximately 860). In Unequal Impact II, Robson et al. estimated that Māori are nearly 80% more likely to die of cancer compared to non-Māori (mortality rate: non-Māori: 63 per 100,000, Māori 112 per 100,000). Nearly a third of all cancer deaths among Māori will be caused by lung cancer.

As well as being more likely to die of their cancer, there is some evidence that Māori patients with terminal cancer are more likely to experience poor quality of life and palliative care. Māori access to palliative care services has been identified as an important issue 13 – for example, there is some evidence that Māori are more likely to access palliative care services at the imminent death stage, and thus too late in their cancer journey for these services to positively impact the quality of their life. The impact of this latency on access to pain-relieving medication in the final months of life remains entirely unknown.

Dr Jason Gurney (Ngāpuhi) has been awarded an HRC Māori Emerging Leader Fellowship to further investigate cancer survival and palliative care disparities between Māori and non-Māori New Zealanders.

Key publications

Gurney, J., Stanley, J, Adler, J., McLeod, H., Atkinson, J., Sarfati, D. (2021). National study of pain medicine access among Māori and non-Māori lung cancer patients in New Zealand. JCO Global Oncology, 7, p1276-1285.

Gurney, J., Stanley, J., McLeod, M., Koea, J., Jackson, C., Sarfati, D. (2020). Disparities in cancer-specific survival between Māori and non-Māori New Zealanders, 2007-2016. JCO Global Oncology, 6, p 6:766-774.

Gurney, J., Stanley, J., Jackson, C., Sarfati, D. (2020). Stage at diagnosis for Māori cancer patients: disparities, similarities and data limitations. New Zealand Medical Journal, 133(1508), p43-64.

Gurney, J., Campbell, S., Turner, S., Scott, N. (2020). Addressing cancer inequities for indigenous populations: the New Zealand story. Journal of Cancer Policy, 23 (100204), p1-6.

Gurney, J., Robson, B., Koea, J., Scott, N., Stanley, J., Sarfati, D. (2020). The most commonly-diagnosed and most common causes of cancer death for Māori New Zealanders. New Zealand Medical Journal, 133, p77-96.

Gurney, J., Campbell, S., Jackson, C., Sarfati, D. (2019). Equity by 2030: Achieving equity in survival for Māori cancer patients. New Zealand Medical Journal, 132(1505), p66-76.