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Strengthening the cultural competence of our doctors

9 June 2017

Improving cultural competence and creating culturally safe environments for both patients and doctors is the aim of a new joint project between the Medical Council of New Zealand (Council) and Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (Te ORA), the Māori Medical Practitioners Association.

A national symposium to consider the challenges and opportunities for improvement will be held on 1 June 2017 as a first step in the initiative. This is a key element of the Council’s strategic direction to protect the public by supporting doctors to improve their cultural competence, increase partnership with Māori and create greater health equity.

Those involved in the symposium include Medical Colleges, District Health Boards, Primary Health Organisations, medical unions and Ministry of Health representatives.

Key issues for discussion include how organisations can work in partnership to:

  • strengthen cultural competence, including understanding the role and responsibility in the causes of, and possible solutions to, health inequity
  • improve cultural safety for patients
  • improve the support and cultural safety for those members of the profession who identify as Māori
  • increase understanding of cultural influences on health.

Council Chairman Mr Andrew Connolly said the causes of health inequity and the links with poor health outcomes were well evidenced, but many could be improved or avoided through a coordinated approach from training and health providers and policymakers.

“Whilst the causes of health inequity are complex, there are some aspects of inequity where the regulator or medical profession has significant control or influence and therefore we have a responsibility to act,” Mr Connolly said.

Te ORA Board Chair Dr Nathan Joseph, is pleased to see the focus and support for strengthening cultural competence, improving cultural safety, and more importantly working towards better health outcomes for Māori.

“We are expecting over 140 people to attend the symposium, which shows the importance the health sector places on these issues and the genuine desire to address them”,  Dr Joseph said.

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