Asian women in New Zealand have the lowest breast and cervical cancer screening rates in the country, but researchers have now said that they are largely ignored by the Ministry of Health.
Wayne Reid, ethnic liaison officer Partnership Health Canterbury, said that he was concerned about the low uptake of cancer screening among Asians.
Ministry statistics show that only 47 per cent of Asian women regularly have a cervical smear test.
And screening rates for Maori and Pacific women are 51 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively, compared with 83 per cent for other New Zealanders.
Reid pointed out hat a media campaign started in 2007, which was directed at Maori and Pacific women, had been effective in increasing coverage. However, the researcher added, it left Asians behind.
Christchurch doctors needed information on cancer screening in Asian languages.
"Doctors say they have nothing they can give to [Asian-speaking patients]. There's some stuff out there, but I don't see it in the surgeries," the Press quoted him as saying.
Although Asians were generally regarded as being "healthy", little was known about their health outcomes because data was poor
Asian populations in New Zealand suffered the "healthy migrant effect", where they would arrive healthy, but their health worsened owing to stress and diet changes.
Reid said that the ministry largely ignored Asian health needs, which were relegated to the "too-hard basket".
Last Year, a study showed that Asian women were the least likely of all ethnic groups to have mammograms or smear tests, generally going to a doctor only if something was already wrong.
A ministry spokeswoman said that the cervical screening campaign focused on Maori and Pacific women because of their higher rates of cervical cancer, but it had been successful across the board in increasing screening rates.
She said that in February last year, the campaign was extended to include Asian material targeting women in Auckland- where 70 per cent of New Zealand's Asians lived.
She also explained that breast cancer screening was targeted by need, and Asians had the lowest rates in the country.