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Healthcare advocacy recommended for Māori with disabilities

Healthcare advocacy recommended for Māori living with disabilities
in Southland

A University of Otago study of Māori living with disabilities in Southland has recommended that an advocacy service may better support access to health services for hauā Māori (Māori living with disability) and their whānau.

The study was a partnership between the School of Physiotherapy, the Donald Beasley Institute, the Ngā Kete Mātauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust, and hāua Māori and their whānau.

It suggests that Māori with a disability may benefit from increased support through an advocate to enhance their access to health and disability organisations in Murihiku.

Assoc Professor Leigh Hale commented that, “Whilst most health and disability organisations are physically accessible to hauā Māori, our research indicates that a cultural and disability appropriate advocacy service may proactively optimise a person’s engagement with organisations.”

The study’s authors say an advocate could accompany hauā Māori to specialists, to help them identify pertinent questions and ensure hauā Māori are able to ask questions and have them answered. They could also assist with transport and accessing other support that hauā Māori may require.

Kairangahau Māori Kelly Tikao said another crucial area for advocacy is on the marae. Many participants expressed a strong desire to be involved with marae- based activities, but were often unaware of what events were taking place or were unable to get to the marae to take part. Cultural connection and involvement in tikaka (customs) and kawa (protocols) appeared to play a major role in the waiora (wellbeing) of hauā Māori.

The research was funded by the Health Research Council and the Ministry of Health to improve understanding and evaluate how Māori living with a disability access health organisations in Southland, and to find ways of improving that process.

“More importantly we worked alongside Māori living with a disability and their whānau, utilising a kaupapa Māori approach. This enabled us to gain a close personal perspective on Māori living with disabilities,” says Dr Brigit Mirfin-Veitch, researcher and director of the Donald Beasley Institute.

The study identified four themes relating to improving health accessibility and which help to make hauā Māori feel well and healthy. These are: feeling valued, being connected and keeping in touch, having a strong sense of self identity and self-worth, and being able to access the best resources.

The research also interviewed health organisations in the region regarding access for disabled Māori and their whānau. It found that 83% of health and disability organisations provided or planned to provide staff with cultural training, 79% knew how to access staff to assist with that training, and 93% reported good to excellent accessibility for disabled Māori and their whānau.

However, the study also reported that many organisations did not fully understand their Treaty of Waitangi obligations and the importance of tikaka (tikanga) Māori practice for services provided to Māori. Only 38% of health organisations surveyed said they included Māori in their development of policy.

Overall these findings may suggest the need for resources to support advocacy services for hauā Māori to facilitate access of appropriate health.


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