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Dr Karaitiana Taiuru image
Dr Karaitiana Taiuru.

A new kaupapa Māori research group has been established within the Christchurch Heart Institute (CHI) to help ensure equity in heart health for Māori.

Led by Dr Karaitiana Taiuru (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Toa), the group's focus will involve identifying any bias in the CHI's current research, leading to a tailored approach for Māori.

“The CHI is being particularly proactive in wanting to ensure their research embraces Māori and other cultures,” said Dr Taiuru, “The health system is failing Māori and heart health is one key area of that. The CHI team is taking steps towards developing heart health medical care and research tailored for the genetic make-up of Māori and other cultures.”

The CHI's level of cultural safety will be uncovered through a survey being rolled-out to all members of the group. Summer student, Elishia Mako (Ngāi Tahu, Tūhoe, Tainui), is leading this process, that aims to reveal the different levels of awareness staff are at. This will provide a foundation for the development of cultural training over the next two years.

“Revealing unconscious bias – without judgement or criticism – is a powerful tool towards change,” Dr Taiuru said, “An example of an unconcious bias might be when a Māori person is given medication that doesn't work for them, there's often an assumption that it's because they are not taking the medication correctly or listening to medical advice. When in fact, it may be that the medication doesn't suit them.”

Dr Taiuru said that this is vital information for the medical profession to understand and act upon in the bigger context of medical care.

“There is a current of change at the moment that is altering the lines of the playing field. What was once acceptable when I were a boy is totally unacceptable now. We grow and evolve. Increasing cultural awareness and engagement with the Māori community, is enabling the CHI to be integral in their own steps towards that change.”

In addition to the kaupapa Māori research group, a Maōri Governance Group is under development, including involvement by a number of well-known Māori leaders. The group will sit side-by-side with the CHI Steering Group, providing governance advice for Māori research.

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