22 Aug 2019

New tobacco research programme to target Māori smoking rates

8:46 pm on 22 August 2019

A new tobacco research programme has been launched that aims to eliminate disparities in smoking rates between Māori and non-Māori.

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Māori health researcher Lizzie Strickett says smoking disparities between Māori and non-Māori are significant. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke, representing members of the Māori tobacco prevention group Hāpai Te Hauora, has received a $4.9 million grant from the Health Research Council.

Māori health researcher Lizzie Strickett said the smoking disparities between Māori and non-Māori were significant.

"Overall, our rates of smoking nationwide are decreasing, but for those who are most affected, which is whānau Māori and Pasifika, they're not dropping at the same rates."

Hāpai wanted to highlight and reiterate the importance of whānau to achieve a smoke free Aotearoa by 2025.

"It's important to note that tobacco isn't part of our tikanga, it never has been. When we talked to whānau, they are the ones that have the solutions for us," Ms Strickett said.

"A lot of the interviews and the research we're doing is qualitative, which means we're letting whānau be the centre of the conversation. We're able to translate their whakaaro into action.

"Hopefully, in five years time when this programme finishes, which will be nearing 2025, we'll be able to say that we did it because we listened to whānau and followed their lead."

Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke is a collaboration between Otago University, Hāpai Te Hauora, Kōkiri Marae, Keriana Olsen Trust, and ESR.

Anaru Waa, a primary investigator from Otago University, said working with different sectors was incredibly important to ensure leaders at every level, from communities to government, had 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."

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