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New adventures and journeys on the digital health highway

31 January 2018, 10am

Press Release: Toi Tangata

For immediate release

Digital Leadership and Mātauranga Māori: New adventures and journeys on the digital health highway

Today marks the bringing together of a group of Māori co-design practitioners from Toi Tangata and the Healthier Lives research team based at the School of Population Health within the University of Auckland at the East Tamaki campus.

Toi Tangata, alongside their research partners from the Healthier Lives: He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge, will be launching a healthy lifestyle support tool today that consists of a smartphone app and website. The idea of the tool is to set goals and invite whānau and friends to join users on their journey to achieve positive lifestyle improvements. It includes healthy eating and physical activity tools to support participants with making behaviour change and provides regular motivational messages and tips.

The programme effectiveness will be evaluated using a Cluster Randomised Trial design, Clusters will be identified by Māori and Pasifika Community Coordinators and will be randomly assigned to either the mHealth tool (intervention condition) or a simplified version of the tool which only collects data (control condition). Participants in the intervention clusters will use the tool for 12 weeks and participants in control clusters will be able to use the tool after the 12-week intervention period.

The OL@-OR@ (“Ola Ora”) project is a mobile health (mHealth) tool in partnership with Māori and Pasifika Communities to help Kiwis become healthier and reduce their risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. The tool is in the form of a smartphone app and supporting website, in two versions, tailored for each community. It helps people set goals to make lifestyle changes, but with a twist.

A whānau approach

Toi Tangata Co-design specialist for Ol@ Or@, Crystal Pekepo explains “this mHealth kaupapa allows you to not only set individual goals, but also set goals as a community or whānau. So for example rather than one person having a goal of 10,000 steps a day, you might be a whānau of five and have a goal of 50,000 steps a day collectively.”

Users can invite family members, whānau and friends to join them in achieving their goals. Larger goals sit alongside smaller “footsteps,” small achievable tasks aimed at getting users to their ultimate goals.

CEO of Toi Tangata Megan Tunks, believes this is “a tool with huge potential for Māori communities who want to connect and share their hauora journey with friends and whānau. There is a vast amount of research that has found that simply by tracking our health – using a fitness tracker, for example – we’re more likely to achieve health goals such as getting fitter or increasing physical activity time.”

“There is really good behavioural research to show that writing down or tracking health goals helps motivate people and encourages behaviour change, and that can lead to better results,” says Megan Tunks

Toi Tangata is a national Māori public health agency which focuses on developing and delivering positive health initiatives to accelerate health outcomes for Māori. They are a team of specialists dedicated to health approaches informed by mātauranga Māori.

Community co-design

The tool has been developed using an innovative ‘co-design’ approach, meaning the communities it’s designed to serve have been involved right through the design process. Over the space of a year, the project team held a series of focus groups, hui and fono to design the direction and content of the app and website.

Participation and co-creation have become essential features of design and research in many public-sector areas. Embracing an era of participation by design prompts critical questions around the goals and practices of involving people in diverse aspects of developing, redesigning and using co-design to inform service delivery practice.

The Māori version of the app includes a ‘kai’ section, with a sub-section on ‘kai ā ngā atua’ (food of the gods). Clicking on this reveals stories of the atua with information around food broken down under each god. Rongomataāne (atua of cultivated food) has information on building a maara kai (vegetable garden), seasonal food and affordable produce. Tangaroa (atua of the sea) has information on seafood and the tikanga around water safety and collecting seafood (kaimoana), Haumietiketike (atua of wild foods) has the tikanga and information about local markets.

In the Māori app, users can choose from a waka or whare for their welcome page. The Pasifika version features a vaka.

The future for OL@-OR@

The next step for the OL@-OR@ project is a large scale trial to test the effectiveness of the tool, which is proposed to start early next year, involving almost 2,000 people. If the results are positive, the future could see a wider release, with the app being available for individuals and communities to download and use. The future could see many more communities embarking on a journey towards health, one notification at a time.


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