New research to better understand Māori experiences during pandemic

8:02 pm on 5 October 2022

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Iwi and Māori health providers at the top of the South Island are looking towards the next pandemic with a new research project.

Te Tauihu Covid-19 Research Project looks to better understand Māori voices and their experiences throughout the years of Covid-19.

Te Kotahi o Te Tauihu Trust operations manager Dr Lorraine Eade said the purpose of the research can be summed up in three words, "To do better."

She said the iwi of Te Tauihu want to be better prepared for the next iteration of a pandemic.

It is hoped that through this project whānau will help identify areas where future improvement is needed.

Eade said despite a partnership between Māori health providers and Te Whatu Ora, stubborn inequities still persist especially in areas such as vaccination rates.

She said the biggest challenge of the project will be reaching whānau who are disconnected from the health system.

She hopes that by talking to whānau in places where they feel most comfortable - whether that be marae, kura, or their homes - they will feel at ease sharing their stories.

Research project lead Dr Melissa Cragg said when it comes to health inequity, the voice of whānau Māori is integral to finding solutions.

She is encouraging as many of the 18,000-strong Te Tauihu Māori population to take part.

She said, "A study such as this is a snapshot in time and is reliant on those whānau who choose to take part.

"That's why it its important for a wide range of whānau to share their experiences with us, so we have as full a picture as possible."

Cragg said there are no fixed ideas in terms of themes that might emerge, but there will be stories of challenge along with many stories of whānau resilience.

"Challenges can cover a full range of things, like financial impacts through lost income or reduced hours at work, and the flow on from that; mental health impacts, including for those who have never experienced any form of mental health distress before.

"Then there's the conflicting views within whānau regarding vaccination as well as access to services and support. These could all be part of the many experiences that are shared through this project," she said.

Research will involve a conversation with a research assistant either by phone, Zoom, or in person. There is also an option to answer questions using a short online form.

The program will centre on whānau voices and experiences, and will be underpined by kaupapa Māori methodologies.

The kanohi ki te kanohi approach will hopefully allow whānau to share their stories openly.