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Māori experiences of cancer

10 September 2008

Māori experiences of cancer

A recent study into Māori experiences of cancer in New Zealand challenges the health system to respond to the needs of Māori and their whānau at all stages of cancer diagnosis and treatment says a team of researchers.

Qualitative research results, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, suggest more work is needed to address significant inequalities in care between Māori and nonMāori.

The team were from Victoria University’s Health Services Research Centre and Otago University, the Otaki Community Health Centre; Te Wakahuia Hauora; Te Aitanga a Hauiti Hauora; and Turanga Health, Researchers interviewed 44 Māori affected by cancer – including patients, survivors and their whānau from Horowhenua, Manawatu and Tairawhiti. A hui was held to give back results and validate the findings.

“Our results also suggest that more work is needed from the sector to understand the differing needs between Māori and nonMāori cancer patients,” says Victoria University researcher Tai Walker.

She says the research provided some valuable pointers on how to achieve this, including:

· Coordinated service delivery;

· Better funding of Māori providers;

· Altering mainstream services to support Māori (such as providing space for whānau);

· Informing Māori of their entitlements;

· Increasing the Māori workforce;

· Providing cultural competence training for all health workers;

· The use of systems ‘navigators’, that is, people funded to support and advocate for Māori experiencing cancer;

· The inclusion of whānau in all stages of patients’ cancer journey; and

· Appropriate funding for whānau providing support.

Tai Walker says the ability of health professionals to meet Māori patients and whānau halfway in terms of cultural needs impacts positively on Māori.

“Research participants valued competence, compassion, warmth, honesty and respect from their healthcare professionals, and those who offered support and took an interest in them personally."

Cancer is a leading cause of death for Māori. Māori are over 18 per cent more likely than nonMāori to be diagnosed with cancer and have a 93 per cent higher mortality rate.

A full copy of the article is available at


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