Achieving health equity in Aotearoa: strengthening responsiveness to Māori in health research 

Authors: Reid P, Paine SJ, Curtis E, et al.

Reference: N Z Med J. 10 Nov 2017, Vol 130, No. 1465

Summarised on: 24 May 2018

The authors of this viewpoint paper argue for greater engagement with responsiveness to Māori activities as part of the commitment to achieving equitable health outcomes. They say that many health researchers have a narrow view of responsiveness to Māori and its relevance to their work.

The paper outlines existing frameworks (eg those used by the Waitangi Tribunal and the Ministry of Health) that can be used to develop thinking and positioning regarding the Treaty of Waitangi and responsiveness to Māori. It then discusses an equity-based approach that encourages health researchers to consider responsiveness to Māori in four main areas:

(1) Relevance to Māori

  • Researchers need to establish whether the topic is important for Māori health and/or whether inequities exist. Opportunities to enhance relevance to Māori include:
  • Consultation with Māori: which requires respectful information sharing and dialogue.
  • Dissemination: feeding back results from consultation allows further action to be discussed.
  • Enabling relationships with Māori individuals and communities: researchers should start this process during the conception of research.
  • Māori health research workforce development: for example by actively recruiting Māori students, researchers and support staff.
  • Theoretical space: the advancement of Kaupapa Māori Theory and Research has attracted many Māori researchers to this developing theoretical space.

(2) Māori as participants

Health researchers should consider the relative strengths and limitations of the variables – Māori ethnicity, ancestry and descent – in relation to research questions. Ethnicity is about self-identifying the social group(s) with whom we affiliate. Ethnicity should be collected using standard ethnicity questions in the NZ Census and official datasets. Information on Māori ancestry and descent should be collected directly from participant(s).

(3) Promoting the Māori voice

Researchers should give priority to the group with the inequity; their ‘voice’ should be heard and their reality understood. Equal explanatory power refers to appropriate sampling and respect for the Māori ‘voice’. Researchers should not assume that if Māori data are different, that the ‘difference’ lies within Māori (bodies, culture or behaviours).

(4) Human tissue

Māori consider human tissue to be tapu. The restrictions are usually managed by informed consent processes and the formal information given to prospective participants.


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