by Daphna Whitmore
A big new research project has been launched by the government. Called “A Better Start – E Tipu e Rea“, it is to run for ten years, with $34 million funding to “improve the potential of young New Zealanders to have a healthy and successful life”.
It will focus “on those tamariki most at risk of obesity, learning and mental health problems – those for whom we can make the most difference. These are Māori, Pacific and poorer children, who carry an unfair burden … Māori and Pacific communities are helping to design, execute and interpret our research in a way that is culturally right for them.”
While giving a nod to poverty being a factor, will the researchers get to the heart of the economic system?
Will they tackle the fundamental causes of inequality and consider who creates wealth and who gets it under capitalism? Will they establish why the majority of people earn only modest incomes and why there is a chronic shortage of jobs? In other words, will the research expose the capitalist disparity-creating system?
They say the Better Start project is a new approach. It will be a deep study over a long period of time, and will seek solutions. Sounds good, except we have had similar projects. From 1980 to 1999 Decades of Disparity reports chronicled growing inequality. The two decades of reports provide rich data on New Zealand society.
In 1999 the new Labour-Alliance government launched a “Closing the Gaps” policy. The following year the Public Health and Disability Act was introduced requiring the health sector to reduce health inequalities. The gaps remain.
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