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Emerging Māori health leaders talk about solutions

By Eruera Rerekura -

Published: 5:48PM Monday May 02, 2016

  • Throat swab (Source: ONE News)
    Throat swab - Source: ONE News

Māori health workers gathered in Wellington on Monday for the second annual Māori Public Health Symposium.

The Public Health Association brought together a number of young Māori health experts to talk about a range of issues, including prevention of rheumatic fever to racism in the heath sector.

Compared to the rest of the population Māori and Pacific people show up worst in health statistics, and finding Māori who can come up with positive outcomes is what this conference was all about, Public Health Association Chief Executive Warren Lindberg said.

“We are very keen to identify young emerging Māori academics demonstrating leadership in providing solutions for the problems that we have in the disparity of Māori health.”

Mr Lindberg said the symposium was fortunate to be able to invite eight Māori health professionals not only from across Aotearoa, but a couple who work overseas.

“We’ve got a stunning list of young academics including two who work internationally who are working in really interesting areas. The first one [spoke about] brain plasticity [which] is not something we think about a lot, the second one [gave a presentation about] rheumatic fever [which] is something we’re all thinking about a great deal.”

Dr Willy-John Martin (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Tamaterā) was one of those guest speakers who flew in from Australia to address the audience.

He said after spending time comparing Aboriginal and Māori health statistics he was able to see similarities.

“I guess what I’ve learnt is that we share many of the same problems, the same concerns. In particular with rheumatic fever, we both get very high levels and it hits our children so heavily. It’s been kind of a really great challenge to kind of focus on and find solutions and I’m really excited about that,” Dr Martin said.

Te Karere asked him if he was confident that in 10 years’ time the number of Māori contracting rheumatic fever will decrease.

“I’m optimistic that it will change. At the moment the numbers are actually improving here in New Zealand probably due to a number of initiatives that’ve been underway, some with government assistance - I think that’s wonderful. We probably need to do a bit more than that and 10 years is a good goal to get it down a significant amount.”

Warren Lindberg said the Public Health Associations hopes to hold these hui every year so that Māori health professionals can share their knowledge.

Among the speakers were: Hautahi Kingi (Ngā Rauru, Te Ātihaunui a Papārangi) who is based at Cornell University in New York who closed the symposium by talking about the impact of immigration on indigenous people.

Dr Melanie Cheung (Ngāti Rangitihi, Te Arawa), from the Brain Plasticity Institute, Posit Science in San Francisco and the Centre for Brain Research at Auckland University, is currently working with eight Māori whānau who suffer from Huntington’s disease. Her keynote address focused on how to incorporate neuroscience and kaupapa Māori.

Other presenters included; Levi Armstrong (Ngāti Kahungunu); Dr Carla Houkamau (Ngāti Kahungunu); Dr James Hudson (Ngāti Pukeko, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tai, Tūhoe); Karen Jacobs-Grant (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Torehina); and Te Miha Ua Cookson (Ngāti Whātua).