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Research to investigate systemic drivers of Māori cannabis and methamphetamine use

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A Kaupapa Māori analysis of the multiple dimensions of cannabis and methamphetamine use is the focus of a $554,000 postdoctoral fellowship awarded to Māori health researcher Dr Erena Wikaire (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Te Kapotai, Te Hikutu).

The Hohua Tutengaehe Fellowship is one of several career development awards announced today by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).

Dr Wikaire’s research will reveal multi-level insights into Māori experiences of substance use and will also apply traditional Māori understandings of health and healing (Rongoā Māori) to reducing wider influences of drug harms and improving health outcomes for whānau.

She says whānau experience considerable impacts from substance use that is linked directly to wider system-level factors. Further, health system solutions are severely limited and whānau are accessing overstretched and underfunded health services that are not always conducive to Māori needs.

Dr Wikaire’s research into Māori health needs to date has been driven by the lived realities of health inequities experienced within Māori communities.

She says Māori concern for the wellbeing of whānau is clear and urgent, but she believes the current Western health system approach to substance use often takes a “victim-blame” approach and lacks strategic interventions that consider and address the root causes of problems.

“As far as I can find, there are very few, if any, studies to date that ask Māori why they use these substances. There’s very little Māori voice; there’s lots of expert ‘non-Māori’ voice about Māori but there’s not much coming from people with lived experiences.”

She says system approaches to date have placed responsibility with the individual, and the topic has been approached more as a criminal act than a health issue. “As a result, the data available around cannabis and methamphetamine use is largely linked to the justice system; however, there’s a need for Kaupapa Māori analysis that links together available datasets and reveals other potential systemic factors at play. What are the stories that whānau are yet to tell?

“There is evidence that Māori experience barriers to and exclusion from education, employment, healthcare, and therefore participation in society. We know that Māori experience higher levels of racism and poverty than non-Māori. How do these factors contribute to addictive and coping behaviours?” she says.

Dr Wikaire will investigate what constitutes Kaupapa Māori best practice in terms of effective Kaupapa Māori interventions to support affected whānau. The findings of this research will be presented as a multi-level framework that directly informs the work of policy makers, funders, health and wider sectors, community level organisations, and whānau.

“I feel like if we change our understanding and thinking about substance use, then that will inform the approaches we take, and those approaches will be more effective for Māori.”

She says there are many spaces where public health approaches align with Rongoā Māori (traditional Māori healing systems), such as in health promotion and environmental sustainability, and adds that indigenous healing systems offer valuable health solutions.

“Indigenous knowledge systems provide scientifically sound understandings of health and wellbeing, and I feel like as a country we’re in a position where we’re looking to those approaches for help in answering our health priorities.”

The HRC’s chief executive, Professor Sunny Collings, says this year’s award recipients are tackling a broad range of priorities important to their communities and New Zealanders as a whole.

The HRC’s annual career development awards help foster and sustain New Zealand's health research workforce. Today, more than $13.38 million was announced for researchers across three categories – General, Māori Health, and Pacific Health.

See below for the full list of award recipients. Lay summaries are available in the HRC Research Repository.

2021 Career Development Awards – General

Clinical Research Training Fellowship

Dr Lize Angelo, The University of Auckland
Keratoconus and corneal cross-linking
36 months, $259,000

Ms Linda Bowden, The University of Auckland
Evidence-based suicide prevention for youth in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand
36 months, $259,354.

Dr Mercedes Burnside, University of Otago, Christchurch
CREATE Trial; Community deRivEd AutomaTEd insulin delivery
24 months, $180,000

Dr Emma Church, The University of Auckland
Multimorbidity and cardiovascular disease risk prediction
36 months, $260,000.

Ms Sarah Goldsbury, University of Otago, Christchurch
Māori whānau experiences of neuropsychological assessment for FASD
36 months, $260,000

Mr Jay Gong, The University of Auckland
Persistent opioid use and opioid-related harm after surgery and trauma
36 months, $259,000

Dr Ngaire Keenan, University of Otago, Wellington
Defining Māori epilepsy burden and developing an approach for future research
24 months, $173,333

Dr Chen Liu, The University of Auckland
Stoma-output recycling device for ileostomy reversal
12 months, $86,667

Dr Matthew McDonald, The University of Auckland
Early biomarkers in mild traumatic brain Injury: A multi-disciplinary approach
36 months, $260,000

Ms Prue Molyneux, Auckland University of Technology
Clinical utility of ultrasound imaging for evaluation of foot osteoarthritis
36 months, $259,900

Dr Rachel Murdoch, The University of Auckland
Effect of dexamethasone on acute phase response following zoledronic acid
12 months, $86,580 

Mrs Nora Parore, Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington
He tono whakapiki ora: Whānau and pharmacists’ knowledge exchange
48 months, $258,471

Dr Sarah Primhak, The University of Auckland
Treatment of Impetigo with Antiseptics-Replacing Antibiotics (TIARA) Trial
24 months, $160,000

Clinical Practitioner Research Fellowship

Dr Alison Leversha, Auckland DHB Charitable Trust
Collaboration for child wellbeing
60 months, $890,709

Sir Charles Hercus Fellowship

Dr Collin Brooks, Massey University
The benefits of biodiversity: a novel approach to preventing asthma and allergy?
48 months, $491,527

Dr Elodie Desroziers, University of Otago
Unravelling the role of glial cells in fertility regulation
48 months, $506,917

Dr Victor Dieriks, The University of Auckland
Decreasing alpha synuclein in Parkinson’s disease. Are ‘strains’ the solution?
48 months, $571,338

Dr Sunali Mehta, University of Otago
Adapting to a CINister genome: regulating chromosomal instability and metastasis
48 months, $600,000

Dr Adam Middleton, University of Otago
Protein degradation: from understanding to application
48 months, $599,999

Dr Michel Nieuwoudt, The University of Auckland
Photonic device for real-time measurement of ischaemic tissue margins in surgery
48 months, $482,706.

Dr Kenneth Tran, The University of Auckland
Bioenergetics of human diabetic heart failure
48 months, $586,497.

Foxley Fellowship

Dr Ryan Paul, University of Waikato
Education and mentoring of primary care to improve diabetes care in the Waikato
24 months, $174,993                                      

Girdlers HRC Fellowship

Dr Cervantee Wild, The University of Auckland
Experiences of children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic
36 months, $332,645

2021 Māori Health Career Development Awards

Māori Health Knowledge Translation Grant

Dr Terryann Clark, The University of Auckland
Accessible digital resources for rangatahi and their whānau
6 months, $5,000

Ms Joanna Hikaka, The University of Auckland
Upholding the right of Māori older adults to control their medicines journey
6 months, $5,000.

Rangahau Hauora Training Grant

Dr Tepora Emery, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology
‘Poipoia te kākano, kia puāwai’
5 months, $12,000

Māori Health Summer Studentship

Miss Brooke Bridges, University of Otago, Wellington
Understanding how the supportive care needs of Māori with cancer are assessed
3 months, $5,000

Ms Raiha Cook, University of Otago, Wellington
An inquiry into Raukura integration into Euro-centric Otago University
4 months, $5,000.

Miss Sade Gilbert-Perenise, University of Otago, Wellington
Utilisation of Wai for the holistic wellbeing of Māori
3 months, $5,000

Ms Jordon Lima, University of Otago
Investigating genetic links between height and gout in Māori and Pacific people
3 months, $5,000

Miss Tahirah Moton, The University of Auckland
Teaching in racialised spaces - SET feasibility project
2 months, $5,000

Miss Ruby Ngamane-Harding, Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington
Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki response to mental health needs in rangatahi
3 months, $5,000.

Mrs Ariel Schwencke, The University of Auckland
Whanaungatanga and association with health outcomes, health literacy and access
2 months, $5,000

Ms Saskia van der Wilt, University of Otago
Physiotherapists use of green space for life-long health conditions
2 months, $5,000

Māori Health PhD Scholarship

Ms Jordon Lima, University of Otago
Equitable application of circulating tumour DNA to the New Zealand population
36 months, $141,000

Ms Natalie Talamaivao, The University of Auckland
Exploring interrelationships between racism, time and Māori health inequities
72 months, $131,247

Erihapeti Rehu-Murchie Fellowship

Ms Ngahuia Murphy, University of Waikato
Aho Tapairu: Developing a mana wahine well-being toolkit
36 months, $394,035

Dr Pikihuia Pomare, Massey University
Mauri tau: Indigenous psychological and therapeutic approaches to mental health
36 months, $378,331

Māori Health Masters Scholarship

Mr Witana Petley, University of Otago
Experiences of stroke rehabilitation for Māori stroke survivors and their whanau
24 months, $31,600

Māori Health Development Grant

Dr Kim Southey, Te Puawai Tapu Trust
Māori women's experiences of access to abortion in Aotearoa NZ
5 months, $10,000

Hohua Tutengaehe Fellowship

Dr Joeliee Seed-Pihama, University of Waikato
Kia taiohi te tū
36 months, $386,985

Dr Erena Wikaire, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi 
A Kaupapa Māori analysis of Māori cannabis and methamphetamine use
48 months, $554,400

2021 Pacific Health Career Development Awards

Pacific Health PhD Scholarship

Ms Rubinstine Manukia, Auckland University of Technology
Exploring the role of Tongan faith leaders in influencing wellbeing
36 months, $84,033.

Miss Hulita Tauveli, Massey University
Faith to bounce back! Pacific youth wellbeing and resilience
22 months, $79,933

Mr Jordan Taylor, University of Otago
Decoding the genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains endemic to the Pacific
36 months, $129,550

Miss Zanetta Toomata, The University of Auckland
Pharmacogenetics of T2D medications within the Māori and Pacific population
36 months, $125,550

Pacific Health Postdoctoral Fellowship

Mr Caleb Marsters, The University of Auckland
The importance of informal mental health help-seeking for Pacific men in NZ
36 months, $381,402

Dr Natalie Netzler, The University of Auckland
Effects of unique Pacific gene variants on immunity and metabolic disease
36 months, $398,248

Dr Analosa Veukiso-Ulugia, Moana Research
Nesian Narratives: Enhancing sexuality education for Pacific communities
36 months, $442,511

Pacific Health Knowledge Translation Grant

Mr Edmond Fehoko, Auckland University of Technology
Culture, church and community: Understanding Tongan gambling in New Zealand
10 months, $4,700

Dr Losa Moata'ane, University of Otago
Reducing health inequalities. Pacific Experiences in DHB System
4 months, $5,000

Miss Jaye Moors, University of Otago
Metabolic disease in Polynesian adults and adolescents in New Zealand
4 months, $5,000

Ms Soana Muimuiheata, Auckland University of Technology
Me'akai, Suka mo e Mo'ui Lotolu (Food, diabetes and total wellbeing)
4 months, $5,000

Ms Soana Muimuiheata, Auckland University of Technology
Talanoa 'o e Me'akai mo e Suka
4 months, $5,000

Mr Troy Ruhe, University of Otago
The 'Niu Movement' - The effectiveness of circuit-based exercise in communities
4 months, $5,000

Dr Seini Taufa, Moana Research
Taufa’s 5Gs model –the intra-ethnic variations among Tongan teenage mothers
6 months, $5,000

Pacific Health Masters Scholarship

Miss Annie Baiteke, The University of Auckland
Obesity amongst Kiribati communities
12 months, $31,000

Miss Leueta Mulipola, The University of Auckland
Exploring the understanding and expression of anger among Pasifika youth
12 months, $31,404

Mr Oka Sanerivi, University of Otago
Culturally responsive physiotherapy approaches for working with Pacific children
24 months, $32,430

Pacific Health Summer Studentship

Mr Duncan Drysdale, University of Otago
Developing a supported playgroup for children of Pacific families
2 months, $5,000

Miss Paige Enoka, University of Otago
Physical activity participation for Pacific people
2 months, $5,000

Ms Ileana Lameta, University of Otago
Self-management of long-term conditions for Pacific people
2 months, $5,000

Miss Malia Pateli, The University of Auckland
The prevalence of vitrectomy and cataract post vitrectomy in Pacific and Māori
2 months, $5,000

Mr Cori Poimatagi, University of Waikato
Pacific identity and spirituality in mental health and wellbeing
3 months, $5,000

Miss Urata Sofai, University of Otago
Mental health and wellbeing of the Pacific non-regulated health workforce
3 months, $5,000

Sir Thomas Davis Te Patu Kite Rangi Ariki Health Research Fellowship

Dr Sione Vaka, Auckland University of Technology
Pacific mental health: Integrating Pacific worldviews and practices
24 months, $300,000

Pacific Health Clinical Training Fellowship

Mrs Ioana Mulipola, Auckland University of Technology
Samoan families’ experience with mental health services
24 months, $172,500

Dr Simone Watkins, The University of Auckland
Why do outcomes of critical congenital heart disease in NZ differ by ethnicity?
36 months, $260,000