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Wāhi Kōrero Research To Capture Unmet Healthcare Needs

Wāhi Kōrero, an online platform that provides users with an anonymous space to share their experiences of the health system, recently launched its second project focused on understanding the complex reasons behind unmet healthcare needs in Aotearoa New Zealand. The project invites people to share their stories in response to the prompt, “I felt too whakamā to go to the doctor.”

It is known that health services struggle to provide accessible, affordable, effective, quality, and non-discriminative health services to Māori, Pacific, disabled, and rainbow whānau. According to the latest NZ Health Survey data, one in three Māori reported unmet primary care needs over the past year, signalling deep cracks in the system. Senior Lecturer and Wāhi Kōrero co-lead Dr Angelique Reweti says, “This isn’t just costs and poor logistics. The stories expose systemic biases that prevent equitable access. We must critically examine why healthcare remains out of reach for so many.” The research will explicitly seek to address these health service experiences as a way to improve health outcomes and reduce persistent health inequities.

Associate Professor Chrissy Severinsen, Wāhi Kōrero co-lead, says, “We know it can be difficult to reach out to a healthcare provider for lots of reasons. People might feel embarrassed or they’ve had negative experiences. We want to hear stories about when people should have seen a doctor but didn’t.” The research aims to understand what stopped people from getting the care they needed and how the system can be improved.

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The stories already submitted to Wāhi Kōrero expose the complexity of unmet needs and the layered barriers preventing equitable access to healthcare. One participant shared, “In my family, we’ve been taught to believe that you basically had to be dying before you’d even think about doing to the doctors – there’s a GP shortage, they’re stressed and underfunded.” Another recounted a traumatic experience disclosing family violence and was dismissed by their GP: “She made it sound so easy. People are constantly told to talk about these things and reach out for help. But it can make it worse if professionals don’t actively help.”

A trans participant described their experience of misgendering: "When I called to make an appointment with the GP I tried to give them some info so they didn't misgender me. I told the lady on the phone my preferred name. She said that wasn't possible, I had to go by my 'real' name. So I didn't show up for the appointment.”

The stories also shed light on the challenges faced by those with invisible illnesses and neurodivergence. One participant shared their struggle to receive an accurate diagnosis: "I've only just now received an ADHD diagnosis after years of being told I had major depression, including a three-day hospitalisation at a psychiatric ward."

Dr Severinsen emphasises this research is more than data collecting. “It is an opportunity to build understanding that makes health systems more responsive to people’s realities. Behind the statistics are untold stories of people who feel whakamā and don’t access medical help, worsening symptoms and preventable emergency department visits.”

The research team aims to generate insights that will guide policy and practice, ultimately improving health outcomes and reducing persistent inequities.

Wāhi Kōrero is now actively seeking stories in response to the prompt, “I felt too whakamā to go to the doctor.”

Dr Severinsen and Dr Reweti were awarded a Health Research Council grant for this work.

More information can be found at https://wahikorero.co.nz/projects/i-felt-too-whakama-to-go-to-the-doctor/

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