Our health and wellbeing is connected to every part of our lives. Our physical health affects how we feel, which affects how we connect with our whānau, peers, and community. Our wellness impacts how we feel about ourselves, our land, and our people. Health could mean the difference between a stable or broken home. It could determine whether you get a job or get into a school. Without good health and wellbeing, your choices are limited. That’s why our health must be a factor when we vote.

Once again we are rolling around to another election. And while we all like to complain about what the government is or isn’t doing, we need to take ownership for the outcomes. It’s our votes that determine who will govern the country for the next three years.

Māori Health Inequities

Over the last twelve months, COVID-19 has impacted the health and wellbeing of our people. But even before the pandemic hit, Aotearoa was already seeing big health inequalities for the Maori population. COVID-19 only brought these pre-existing health problems to the surface. 

If we are to see changes in the inequitable health outcomes for Maori, a multi-faceted approach is needed. Governing bodies at every level — national, regional, and local — need to focus on actioning policies and support systems that promote health and wellbeing. And these policies and systems must be easy to embrace by whānau. This includes education, housing, income, employment and cultural connectivity. 

If we had systems, programs and supports that enhance health and wellbeing, we would see reductions in heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, suicides, and risky behaviors. Support would improve mental health, increase life expectancy, and quality of life. Surely this is something we need to be striving for as a country. Around the world we are seeing some great examples of equitable health outcomes for all. So come on Aotearoa.  We need to get on this bandwagon too. Enough korero, time for action.

Health-Related Referendums

This year’s ballot will include two referendums, both related to health and wellbeing. The End of Life Choice referendum is a vote on whether to give people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying. And the Cannabis legalisation and control referendum is to decide on whether to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Both will impact Māori health care.

But before you vote on either, know the facts. Make an informed choice. Don’t rely on social media or community movements for your facts. Check out the Know Before You Vote webpage. And really think about the health impacts of these referendums on our country. Look into the different political party platforms. Know your MP’s stance on these topics. Are these parties and representatives in line with your own beliefs, values, and hopes for your country? 

Voice Your Beliefs

Get vocal about your thoughts. Are you happy with how the health system treats you and your whānau? Do you want equitable health outcomes for Māori? Could we have dealt with COVID-19 better? Do some research, ask questions, and challenge the opinions of others. 

And if you get the opportunity, ask any MP’s running for the Muriwhenua community about the health impacts of these referendums. They are here to represent you, so let them know what you think.  Send an email, write a letter, post about the topics that are important to you. Representatives don’t deserve your vote just because they appear nice and friendly. Nor should you support them just because they know someone you know. They should get your vote if they represent your beliefs. We’re blessed with the freedom of speech and the right to vote. If you want to improve your health, you must speak up and vote. I look forward to seeing you all at the polling booths on 17 October 2020!