A report of the Disability Rights Commissioner and Children’s Commissioner to the Prime Minister on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A Call To Action released today, highlights multiple systemic failures within the healthcare system. These failures continue to disadvantage individuals and whānau living with FASD in Aotearoa, especially Māori women and children. Hāpai Te Hauora calls for immediate action from the Government to ensure that there are equitable health promotion initiatives as well as equitable access to healthcare for those living with FASD. The report highlighted the lack of appropriate progress in providing greater support for those with an FASD diagnosis and their whānau.
Chief Executive Officer of Hāpai Te Hauora, Selah Hart, is dismayed to see the results of the FASD-CAN report, stating that the implementation of the 2016-2019 FASD Action Plan had ‘failed to contribute anything positive to any of the FASD-CAN respondents’ (para 28, pg. 5). In conjunction with the inequitable access to Disability Support Services it is clearly evident that those living with FASD and their whānau require change to occur immediately.
Hāpai Te Hauora, the largest Māori Public Health collective in Aotearoa, implores the Government to ensure that all further public interventions to improve FASD and other alcohol-related health outcomes for Māori should acknowledge the historical, social and cultural context of alcohol in New Zealand. FASD outcomes for Māori should be acknowledged as being a result of systematic failure to provide equitable provisions for Māori and that this be considered a failure to achieve the underlying principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We also wish to reiterate the importance of support being led by mātauranga Maori service providers and models of practice that affirm the place of wairuatanga in holistic care. This includes supporting iwi led supports and approaches, and calls for an intersectoral approach that focuses on Te Ao Māori solutions.
Maria Ngawati, Research Lead for Hāpai Te Hauora says that "more qualitative research be undertaken to better understand the relationship being alcohol harm and consumption during pregnancy". Furthermore, an increase in whānau based interventions aimed at educating younger people about the risks to pēpi in utero are called for, which is supported by the findings in the report released today.
Overall, Ms Hart welcomes the recommendations of the report, and strongly encourages decision makers take a Tiriti and Human Rights based approach to FASD because as proven over and over again what works for Māori works for all.