An independent Māori-led research team has been awarded $1.5M by the Ministry of Health and Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) to track the implementation and progress of the government’s Whakamaua Māori Health Action Plan 2020–2025.
In addition to the Ministry of Health’s internal evaluation of the plan, the research team’s assessment will directly inform implementation, progress, and direction of Whakamaua from now through to 2025, and identify gaps that need to be filled along the way.
“The project is unique in providing real-time research on an important policy initiative on Māori health at a time of major health reforms and ongoing significant impacts resulting from Covid-19,” says the project’s co-lead researcher, Dr Lis Ellison-Loschmann (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Raukawa, Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Toa Rangatira).
The Whakamaua Māori Health Action Plan sets the government’s direction for Māori health advancement over a five-year period, giving practical effect to He Korowai Oranga – the Māori Health Strategy. It outlines a suite of objectives and priority areas with tangible actions that can be implemented to achieve high-level outcomes that contribute to pae ora (healthy futures) for Māori.
Dr Ellison-Loschmann says that while equitable health outcomes for all New Zealanders is an explicit goal of the New Zealand health and disability system, significant inequities between Māori and non-Māori still exist across the life course – from before birth, through childhood and youth, through adulthood and into old age.
“We will evaluate the role of Whakamaua in contributing to pae ora across the life course, an approach that resonates with Māori understandings of health and recognises the importance of intersectoral commitment to address health inequities," she says.
“It is well documented that differential access to healthcare services, as well as very different education, employment, income and housing opportunities compared with non-Māori, contribute to major systemic factors which have ongoing impacts on Māori health and wellbeing.”
The team will provide evidence of progress on the outcomes and objectives of Whakamaua, guided by the eight priority areas outlined in the plan: Māori-Crown partnerships, Māori leadership, Māori health and disability workforce, Māori health sector development, cross-sector action, quality and safety, insights and evidence, and performance and accountability.
They will examine progress at four different levels, which includes the policy and implementation level; the governance and provision of primary healthcare for Māori; the impact on iwi, Māori, and Māori-led provider organisations; and impact on Māori health outcomes.
“Our overarching goal is to determine what Whakamaua looks like in practice, with a view to identifying what is working well and why; what is not working well and why; and where improvements can be made,” says Dr Ellison-Loschmann.
“This is an opportunity to draw on whānau, iwi, Māori and Māori-led expertise in the area of service delivery to provide valuable direction on how action and policy can be more closely aligned.”
The Ministry of Health’s John Whaanga, Deputy Director-General – Māori Health, says the research team not only brings extensive experience in Māori health policy and implementation research, but a kaupapa Māori approach to help ensure the plan delivers on all aspects of pae ora, including mauri ora – healthy individuals; whānau ora – healthy families; and wai ora – healthy environments.
“This team will provide independent advice and insights to help remediate any areas where there is insufficient evidence of progress being made.”
The Health Research Council’s Director of Equity, Māori and Pacific Health Research, Mr Stacey Pene, notes that Whakamaua is a living document with the ability to evolve in collaboration with stakeholders.
“This research will help ensure that the measures in place for achieving better outcomes for Māori are as effective as they need to be. This highly skilled research team has the potential to make a direct and significant impact on government policy and help shape a healthier future for Māori.”