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An Exploration of the Māori Housing-Health Nexus During the Mid-Twentieth Century.

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New Zealand Population Review, 47, 70-107

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This paper examines the relationship between Māori housing conditions and health outcomes in mid-20th century New Zealand.

The paper has three key sections. In the first the deplorable housing conditions of Māori in the 1930s are detailed. The next section describes the housing policy settings over the thirty year period. Finally, the paper turns to a variety of health statistics for a range of illnesses connected to poor housing. The authors outline the dire state of Māori housing during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic, which saw Māori death rates at seven times the national average, and before World War Two. The authors also describe the notable improvements in housing and health outcomes that occurred post-World War Two, which they note were in considerable part driven by the state’s refocusing of housing policy, with both targeted Department of Māori Affairs initiatives as well as the more general family benefit capitalisation scheme and the three percent state mortgages. By analysing government housing policies, physical health indicators, and the state of Māori housing from the 1930s to the 1960s, Rout and Walker shed light on the impact of improved housing conditions on Māori physical health trends. The paper underscores the significant strides made in Māori housing outcomes following World War Two, correlating these improvements with positive trends in Māori physical health indicators. In particular, tuberculosis, typhoid, influenza and infant mortality – all diseases associated with poor housing conditions – all saw a decline during the thirty year period covered. It critically evaluates government responses to housing needs, highlighting the evolution from negligible action to the implementation of policies that fostered better housing conditions for Māori. Despite the complex nature of linking housing directly to health outcomes, the article presents a compelling case for the positive influence of enhanced housing conditions on health, supported by statistical evidence of declining rates in diseases closely associated with poor housing conditions.

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