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Tackling racism in New Zealand’s health system wins funding

Racism in New Zealand's health system is firmly in the sights of newly-funded research into how to combat it and bring positive changes to practice and policy.

Natalie Talamaivao, a senior advisor in Māori Research at the Ministry of Health (MoH), is about to take up a research role with the University of Otago, Wellington, with the aim of developing an anti-racism framework for guiding New Zealand policy advisors and decision-makers.

She says there is already clear and robust evidence showing racism is an important health determinant for Māori and an underlying cause of ethnic inequalities, both in New Zealand and internationally.

"We've got a significant body of evidence that's been developed and it's at the stage now where we need to think about how to translate it into action."

Talamaivao, who will be working with Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare (the Eru Pōmare Māori Health Research Centre), has just received a $131,284 Foxley Fellowship from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) to investigate policy options for action.

It is one of 61 grants announced today by the HRC as part of its annual Career Development Awards, which help foster and sustain New Zealand's health research workforce. More than $10 million in grants was awarded overall to researchers across a broad range of disciplines, including Māori and Pacific health research.

Talamaivao says people experience racism in a range of ways from the interpersonal level to the structural level and there is clear evidence it affects health outcomes.

"Experience of racism impacts on participation with the health sector. In New Zealand it has been linked to lower breast screening and cervical cancer screening for Māori. It also has quite profound effects on mental health and other health outcomes," she says.

Talamaivao has spent more than a decade as a senior advisor in Māori health at the Ministry of Health and says the Foxley Fellowship will allow her to develop her research skills and work with highly-regarded researchers.

As part of the fellowship she will also be involved in three research projects focused on racism and health. These include the impact of racism on the future health of adults, Māori health workforce experiences of racism, and the effects of racism on rangatahi (youth).

"I am hoping that my experience with the policy and Government sector will help me facilitate more of an action-focused stage as the next step."

Other countries, such as Canada and Australia, already have anti-racism policy frameworks and the aim is to develop a New Zealand-specific one. Such frameworks typically cover a wide range of measures from workforce development and anti-racism training programmes, to changes at a strategic level.

HRC chief executive Dr Kath McPherson says, with her background, Talamaivao is well-placed to open an important pipeline between research and policy.

“A key focus of New Zealand’s first Health Research Strategy is how best to enhance the connection between research and its potential to drive improvements in the health system, and we’re very pleased to support Natalie to pursue this important work.”

See below for the 2019 Career Development Award recipients (in the General category). To read lay summaries of the research proposals, go to and filter for ‘Career Development Awards’ and ‘2019’.

For our Māori Career Development Award recipients, filter for ‘Māori Health Research’ and ‘2019’; for Pacific Career Development Award recipients, filter for ‘Pacific Health Research’ and ‘2019’.

2019 HRC Career Development Awards
General & Advanced Fellowships

Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship

Dr Kathryn Bradbury, University of Auckland
Advancing opportunities for big dietary data in New Zealand
48 months, $441,931

Dr Rosemary Brown, University of Otago, Dunedin
The neurobiology of maternal care; understanding the critical role of prolactin
48 months, $500,000

Dr Katie Douglas, University of Otago, Christchurch
Enhancing long-term recovery in mood disorders
48 months, $427,424

Dr Taisia Huckle, Massey University, Auckland
Alcohol’s harm to others: impacts on children of problem/heavy drinkers
48 months, $500,000

Dr Khoon Lim, University of Otago, Christchurch
3D Bioassembly of functional bone grafts: A lego approach
48 months, $487,549

Dr Darren Svirskis, University of Auckland
Delivering neurotrophic growth factors to stimulate and orient axonal outgrowth
48 months, $500,000

Clinical Practitioner Research Fellowship

Dr Mark Bolland, Auckland DHB
Development of trials with novel designs
60 months, $758,874

Dr Robert Weinkove, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research
Development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-Cell therapy in New Zealand
60 months, $802,249

Clinical Research Training Fellowship

Mrs Libby Haskell, Auckland DHB
Knowledge translation bronchiolitis study
24 months, $200,234

Dr Benjamin McConchie, University of Otago, Wellington
Long-term pan-sector outcomes for New Zealand’s NICU graduates
48 months, $313,491

Dr Mohammed Moharram, University of Otago, Dunedin
Patient-reported outcomes after cardiac surgery: advanced cardiac imaging study
36 months, $319,613

Mrs Elizabeth Oliphant, University of Auckland
Caffeine for the prevention of intermittent hypoxaemia in late preterm neonates
36 months, $319,995

Dr Veronica Playle, University of Auckland
The use of WGS to describe the molecular epidemiology of TB in NZ
36 months, $256,126

Dr Janet Rhodes, University of Otago, Dunedin
Refining prognostic accuracy in colorectal cancer patients
36 months, $292,996

Dr Eunicia Tan, University of Auckland
Effects of antipyretics on respiratory disease and eczema in infancy
48 months, $320,000

Ms Leanne Te Karu, University of Auckland
Optimal medication therapy in indigenous populations and specifically in Māori
48 months, $285,292

Dr Weisi Xia, University of Auckland
Improving pain after haemorrhoidectomy
24 months, $210,969

Foxley Fellowship

Dr Rawiri Keenan, University of Waikato
Cultural competence and equity focussed activities in primary care
24 months, $224,727

Ms Natalie Talamaivao, University of Otago
Racism and Māori health: translating research knowledge into policy action
16 months, $131,284

Girdlers’ New Zealand HRC Fellowship

Dr Sandar Tin Tin, University of Auckland
Physical activity, sedentary behaviours and breast cancer risk
36 months, $301,218

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