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Inequities in exposure to occupational risk factors between Māori and non-Māori workers in Aotearoa New Zealand
  1. Hayley J Denison1,
  2. Amanda Eng1,
  3. Lucy A Barnes1,
  4. Soo Cheng1,
  5. Andrea ’t Mannetje1,
  6. Katharine Haddock1,
  7. Jeroen Douwes1,
  8. Neil Pearce1,2,
  9. Lis Ellison-Loschmann1
  1. 1 Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Hayley J Denison, Massey University Centre for Public Health Research, Wellington 6140, New Zealand; h.denison{at}


Background Health inequities between indigenous and non-indigenous people are well documented. However, the contribution of differential exposure to risk factors in the occupational environment remains unclear. This study assessed differences in the prevalence of self-reported exposure to disease risk factors, including dust and chemicals, physical factors and organisational factors, between Māori and non-Māori workers in New Zealand.

Methods Potential participants were sampled from the New Zealand electoral rolls and invited to take part in a telephone interview, which included questions about current workplace exposures. Logistic regression, accounting for differences in age, socioeconomic status and occupational distribution between Māori and non-Māori, was used to assess differences in exposures.

Results In total, 2344 Māori and 2710 non-Māori participants were included in the analyses. Māori had greater exposure to occupational risk factors than non-Māori. For dust and chemical exposures, the main differences related to Māori working in occupations where these exposures are more common. However, even within the same job, Māori were more likely to be exposed to physical factors such as heavy lifting and loud noise, and organisational factors such as carrying out repetitive tasks and working to tight deadlines compared with non-Māori.

Conclusions This is one of the first studies internationally to compare occupational risk factors between indigenous and non-indigenous people. These findings suggest that the contribution of the occupational environment to health inequities between Māori and non-Māori has been underestimated and that work tasks may be unequally distributed according to ethnicity.

  • indigenous
  • occupational health
  • occupational exposures
  • health inequities

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  • Contributors LE-L, A’tM, NP and JD devised the idea for and designed the study. LE-L, AE and KH coordinated the fieldwork including participant recruitment and data collection. HJD, LAB and SC conducted data cleaning and analysis, with statistical advice provided by A’tM and NP. HJD prepared the manuscript with input from LE-L, AE, A’tM, JD and LAB. All authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The general New Zealand Workforce Survey was funded from a Joint Research Portfolio of the Health Research Council, the Accident Compensation Corporation and the Department of Labour which issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a study of the burden of occupational ill-health in New Zealand (HRC 04/072). The Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, was supported by a Programme Grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC 02/159). The Māori Workforce Survey was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand as part of a Programme Grant awarded to the Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University (HRC 08-041E).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was granted by the Massey University Human Ethics Committee (MUHEC 08/28 and WGTN 03/133).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.