While some improvements have been made, Pacific children have poor health compared to other children. In the early 2000s the infant mortality rate was 40% higher among the Pacific population than the national average. This rate is generally regarded as a good indicator of the socio-economic conditions in which children live.
Pacific children are more likely than others to be admitted to hospital for respiratory conditions, infectious and parasitic diseases, burns and unintentional injuries. In 1998–2000 their hospitalisation rate for asthma was 50% higher than the New Zealand average. In 2003–5 notification rates for rheumatic fever for children aged 5–14 were 67 per 100,000 for Pacific children, 34 per 100,000 for Māori children and three per 100,000 for Europeans and others. These childhood problems are consequences of poverty, substandard housing and inadequate health care. Poverty rates were significantly higher among Pacific children compared with other New Zealand children in 2006–7.
Promoting safer sex
Family Life Education Pasifika (FLEP) was set up in 1997 to tackle the high rate of pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted infections among Pacific youth in South Auckland. The group visited churches, community groups, and schools, using music, drama, dance and art to educate adolescents about sexual health and wellbeing. In 2009 FLEP began its ‘Random Acts, Island Styles’ project, where it gave public music and drama performances, some of which were filmed and posted on YouTube.
Young Pacific people generally have death, disease and injury patterns similar to those of other young New Zealanders. A 2007 survey of secondary school students found that 90% of Pacific boys and 82% of Pacific girls reported their health was excellent, very good or good, compared to 95% of European boys and 93% of European girls. There was little difference in the proportion of Pacific and European students with depressive symptoms (11% and 9%), but Pacific students were more likely to have attempted suicide. Of sexually active Pacific students, 66% reported using condoms or other contraception, compared to 87% of European students – which helps to explain the high Pacific teenage pregnancy rate.
Between 2001 and 2007 the proportion of students who reported being OK or very happy or satisfied with their lives rose from 83% to 92%.