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Māori-led research at Otago awarded more than $3m in HRC funding

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Emma Wyeth image
Dr Emma Wyeth.

Māori researchers from the University of Otago have been granted more than $3 million in funding from the Health Research Council (HRC) to tackle a wide range of projects ranging from water safety to disability support access for Māori.

Senior Lecturer, Hauora Māori and the Director of the Ngāi Tahu Māori Health Research Unit, Dr Emma Wyeth (Kāi Tahu, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga), Department of Medicine Research Fellow Mrs Bernadette Jones (Ngā Wairiki, Ngāti Apa), and Senior Lecturer in the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science Dr Anne-Marie Jackson (Ngāti Whātua, Te Roroa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai me Ngāti Kahu o Whangaroa), have all been given project grants in excess of $1 million over three years as part of the HRC’s Project Fund.

Overall, Otago claimed a total of 31 project grants valued at over $40 million in areas ranging from climate change to heart failure.

Dr Wyeth’s project, POIS-10 Māori, aims to understand and improve long-term outcomes and experiences for injured Māori and their whānau.

“POIS-10 Māori will provide vital insights into long-term health and whānau flourishing for over 550 Māori who experienced a considerable injury 10 years ago. It is important that we understand post-injury pathways to health and well-being for Māori.” Dr Wyeth says.

The project is a collaboration with key organisations and personnel within the injury and rehabilitation sector, including Māori health providers and ACC.

Dr Wyeth says the project will also increase the number of Māori health researchers through opportunities such as summer studentships, postgraduate students, interviewers and other early career researchers.

Mrs Jones will explore the impact of tāngata whaikaha Māori (Māori with a disability) along with co-principal investigator Dr Tristram Ingham.

She says there is a significant gap in disability data in New Zealand, and an in-depth survey of disability is not scheduled by Government until 2023.

“Even then, there are no academically robust or culturally validated questions which accurately incorporate mātauranga Māori concepts to be included.

“Therefore this research, which aims to fill this gap, is both timely and important.”

Using a kaupapa Māori methodology to understand the perspectives of tangata whaikaha Māori, the project aims to co-design and develop culturally appropriate approaches to assessing the impact of disability.

Dr Anne-Marie Jackson’s project aims to create a Māori water safety programme in partnership with Tangaroa Ara Rau, a collective of Māori water safety practitioners and researchers, and three Māori communities.

The programme will be tested, re-tested and adapted to ensure the model works within different regions throughout New Zealand.

Wai is central to Māori culture, yet Māori have disproportionately high rates of drowning in Aotearoa,” Dr Jackson says.

“The need for a Māori water safety programme for whānau Māori is an urgent one.”

There has also been some success in the HRC’s Programme Fund for a Māori researcher from Otago. Mr Andrew Waa (Ngāti Hine), and Professors Janet Hoek and Richard Edwards have been given $4.95 million from the HRC’s Programme Fund to launch Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke. The programme will develop and improve ways to close smoking disparities with an eye to Māori and Pacific Peoples, as well as push towards a Smokefree Aotearoa.

Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke has three whenu (strands). The first will comprise a large cohort study that draws together the existing HRC funded International Tobacco Control (NZ Arm) and Te Ara Auahi Kore studies. The second strand will examine the impact of existing and potential measures with specific population groups and communities. The final aspect of the programme will explore how evidence can be translated into action.

The programme is a collaboration with Hāpai Te Hauora, Kokiri Marae Keriana Olsen Trust, and ESR, and will draw largely on community knowledge.

Mr Waa says collaborating with different sectors is incredibly important to ensure leaders at every level from communities to government have a chance to contribute.

“From a Māori perspective, we need to better understand what is causing smoking disparities to exist and what we can do from a policy perspective. We also need to engage and support from a community perspective too.”

Hāpai Te Hauora research and communications coordinator Elizabeth Strickett (Ngāpuhi me Te Aupōuri), says the opportunity to partner on meaningful research is significant for their organisation.

“This is a programme that is primarily of benefit to our Māori communities and it is not on us, it is by and for us,” Ms Strickett says.

“We also understand that the stakes are higher for us. We are not just researchers, we are also primarily accountable to the community, because often times, we are the community.”

For Kokiri Marae, the project is the continuation of a relationship with the University of Otago spanning two decades.

Tu Kotahi Māori Asthma and Research Trust manager Cheryl Davies (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Mutunga me Ngāti Pikiao), says it is hoping the evidence gained from the research will provide valuable information to improve health outcomes and close smoking disparities for Māori and Pacific.

“We have an opportunity to work alongside our Māori communities to develop, implement and evaluate innovative interventions that can potentially reduce smoking prevalence amongst Māori and other priority populations,” she says.

“This could ultimately lead to achieving our overarching goal of a smoke free Aotearoa for everyone.

Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke is one of only five to receive Programme Funding from the Health Research Council.

University of Otago Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, Professor Richard Blaikie, says the funding is a big indicator of the value of Māori research at the University of Otago.

“We are very pleased with this outcome, which puts our capabilities and commitment to Māori health research into clear focus.

“It also highlights the need to continue to support and grow funding for health research across the board, but in particular in areas that will lead to measurable benefits to well-being and reduced inequities in health outcomes for Māori.”

For more information please contact

Dr Emma Wyeth (currently overseas)
Senior Lecturer, Hauora Māori
Director, Ngāi Tahu Māori Health Research Unit
University of Otago
Email emma.wyeth@otago.ac.nz

Dr Anne-Marie Jackson
Co-Director, Te Koronga
Senior Research Fellow
School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences
Email anne-marie.jackson@otago.ac.nz

Mrs Bernadette Jones
Research Fellow
Department of Medicine
University of Otago, Wellington
Email bernadette.jones@otago.ac.nz

Mr Andrew Waa
Senior Research Fellow and Co-Director, ASPIRE2025
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
Email andrew.waa@otago.ac.nz

Professor Janet Hoek
Co-Director, ASPIRE2025
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
Email janet.hoek@otago.ac.nz

Matiu Workman
Communications Advisor (Māori)
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 279 9139
Email matiu.workman@otago.ac.nz

Researchers to receive HRC Project funding

Dr Emma Wyeth
36 months, $ 1,191,067
POIS-10 Māori: Outcomes and experiences in the decade following injury

Māori experience injury and disability inequities. Our Prospective Outcomes of Injury Study (POIS) has investigated a range of Māori post-injury outcomes to two years post-injury, adding to a current knowledge gap. Maximising the opportunity POIS provides, POIS-10 Māori aims to understand and improve long-term (12 years post-injury) outcomes and experiences (positive and negative) for injured Māori and their whānau, using key Māori models of health and well-being. We will follow-up Māori POIS participants (N=544) for POIS-10 Māori, collecting data via quantitative telephone interviews, linking ACC and hospitalisation e-data to 12 years post-injury to understand and identify the factors contributing to key outcomes; and, qualitatively explore the experiences of, barriers and facilitators of access to services, via face-to-face interviews with 15-20 purposively selected participants and their whānau. POIS-10 Māori will provide vital insights about the complex injury and rehabilitation pathway to improve long-term outcomes and experiences, and identify intervention opportunities.

Dr Anne-Marie Jackson
36 months, $ 1,192,263
Tangaroa Ara Rau: Māori water safety programme for whānau

Wai (water) is central to Māori culture, yet Māori have disproportionately high rates of drowning in Aotearoa. The need for a Māori water safety programme for whānau Māori is an urgent one. Here, Māori researchers will work alongside Tangaroa Ara Rau – a collective of national Māori water safety practitioners and researchers - and three Māori communities, utilising a kaupapa Māori approach to develop a Māori water safety programme. It will be tested, adapted and re-tested according to regional differences and preferences. We will also create a folio of evidence to inform advocacy for free water safety programmes for whānau. With a team of emerging to mid-career Māori researchers, this work will benefit communities and the Māori health research workforce. Furthermore, this research will contribute to Water Safety New Zealand's goal of zero drowning for Māori and all New Zealanders.

Mrs Bernadette Jones
36 months, $ 1,186,338
Te Ao Mārama: Disability perspectives of tāngata whaikaha Māori

Indigenous people worldwide have diverse historical and contemporary impacts of disablement arising from colonisation and dysfunction that are in themselves disabling. In Aotearoa 24% of the general population and 26% percent of Māori self-reported as disabled in 2013. When adjusted for age, the rate of Māori disability is 32%. Currently, there is a gap in Māori disability research and no accurate measure regarding the impact of disability on Māori. By using a Kaupapa Māori methodology to understand the perspectives of Tāngata Whaikaha (Māori with a disability) we aim to develop culturally appropriate approaches to measuring disability. We will accurately quantify the prevalence of ‘disability’ among Māori and its impacts on health, wellbeing, social inclusion, and costs for Tāngata Whaikaha. Findings will then be disseminated widely so that inequities for Māori are addressed in the health and disability sectors and new knowledge can inform changes in health policy and disability services.

Researchers to receive HRC Programme funding

Professors Janet Hoek and Richard Edwards, and Mr Andrew Waa
Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke
60 months, $ 4,949,736.70

The Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke programme represents a collaboration that will develop and improve evidence designed to close smoking disparities, particularly for Māori and Pasifika, enhance how tobacco control evidence is used in decision making, and accelerate progress towards a Smokefree Aotearoa. We will achieve this goal by using mixed methods approaches that combine population-level analyses of existing and potential interventions with in-depth enquiries that probe how reducing tobacco’s appeal, affordability and accessibility has impacted communities and whanau. Analysing the complex tobacco control system will evaluate knowledge translation routes, consider barriers and enablers within these, and identify how evidence can more effectively accelerate reductions in smoking prevalence and reduce entrenched disparities. By partnering with Hāpai te Hauora and Kokiri marae, we will draw on community knowledge, build research capacity, and create unique opportunities to engage across the stakeholder spectrum and address the pressing health inequities caused by smoking.