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Demystifying statistics

Bridget Robson

Bridget Robson - research pictureAs a health researcher and director of Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare at the University of Otago, Wellington (UOW), Bridget Robson (Ngāti Raukawa) says one of her key goals and that of the centre, is to demystify statistics, showing them for what they are – “a powerful tool for all Māori”.

Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare (the Eru Pōmare Māori Health Research Centre) was set up to do research by and for Māori and to train Māori in a variety of research methodologies. Bridget, (who is also UOW Associate Dean Māori and a Senior Research Fellow) says much of the research focus is on unveiling reasons for disparities in health between Māori and non-Māori.

“Good health requires access to good living conditions as well as high quality health care,” Bridget says. “If you want to address disparity, or a lack of equity, you have to monitor, gathering data, following the numbers. It’s important to count Māori properly and we push for good quality ethnicity data in every area we work in. In the 1990s we supported having the ethnicity question on birth and death registrations matched up to the census form to get the right numerator and denominator, good data. We then worked with primary health care organisations and hospitals to improve the quality of their data.

“It is good for Māori if we have control of how statistics about Māori are produced and talked about, working against negative framing of Māori. My focus now is to try and improve the way we can be responsive to and influential on policy for Māori service within the health sector in particular. We are working with Breast Screen Aotearoa who are using data to improve the numbers of Māori women being screened for breast cancer. We’re also amassing Māori health details for individual District Health Boards and those advocating for Māori health priorities in their local areas. They need to know what’s happening in their community to know what they need to do.”

Since the 1990s Bridget has been also involved The Mauri Tangata longitudinal study. Focused around the closures of the Whakatu Freezing Works (1986) and the Tomoana Freezing Works (1994) the study looks at the long term effect of unemployment on health within a community.

Bridget is also working on several projects led by Māori researchers outside of the Centre.

Together with UOW Women’s Health Research Centre’s Dr Bev Lawton (Ngāti Porou) Bridget is investigating women/child health with a focus on young Māori mums, gestational diabetes and uterine cancer. With Bernadette Jones and Dr Tristram Ingham of Otago’s Wellington Asthma Allergy & Respiratory Research Group, she is looking at Māori and respiratory disease.