Kaupapa Māori action research to reduce nutrition inequities

The Heart Foundation has today announced funding for a kaupapa Māori action research project to support Māori communities to lead nutrition initiatives to support healthy hearts.

Erina Korohina

Erina Korohina has been awarded a Heart Foundation Māori Cardiovascular Research Fellowship, and will use kaupapa Māori approaches to support whanau and communities to develop an approach to eating well that works for them in their environment and with resources that are easily accessible. This approach is intended to have a positive effect on persistent heart health inequities that impact Māori.

"We are seeking to co-create and co-design a nutrition platform for Māori heart health that is responsive, informed, and relevant to Māori communities who are disproportionately impacted by heart disease," says Erina.

"There is an equity gap in heart disease prevalence and mortality for Māori compared to non-Māori, and healthy nutrition knowledge is a key part of improving heart health."

The research will review different sources of nutrition information that includes Western science, mātauranga (knowledge) Māori and social media. As well as understanding community perceptions, barriers to good nutrition and enablers to sustaining long-term healthy nutrition.

"This will be a major piece of work in addressing inequities in Māori health. Although a few small community initiatives are emerging around Aotearoa, there are currently no co-designed, kaupapa Māori, nutrition interventions readily available to Māori communities to improve cardiovascular health," says Erina.

The research is part of $4.2 million dollars of funding awarded by the Heart Foundation to support heart research and specialist training in Aotearoa, bringing the total awarded by the charity since its formation in 1968, to more than $78 million dollars.  

"Heart disease is New Zealand's single biggest killer. With our ongoing commitment to supporting research, we can keep saving lives and improve the quality of life for the 170,000 New Zealanders living with heart disease," says Heart Foundation Medical Director, Dr Gerry Devlin.

The Heart Foundation has funded this Fellowship to look at co-designing a heart health intervention alongside Māori communities while building the capabilities of emerging Māori heart health researchers.

"The death rate for Māori from heart disease is more than two times that of non-Māori. Improving equity in heart health is a priority for the Heart Foundation and we are proud to support this work in nutrition," says Dr Devlin. 

"Developing an intervention that is grown from within that community is better placed than anything else available to be positive and to make a difference to heart health outcomes," says Erina.

"From a young age I was always interested in standing up for injustices and anything that I thought was unfair. I learnt quite early on that there were differences in people's perceptions, access to services and resources dependent on ethnicity. I became interested in nutrition and as I began understanding more about my own whakapapa and identity, I was drawn to learning more about Māori approaches to health and how these are far more likely to effect equity than their western counterparts. The Heart Foundation funding is hugely valuable to me as it offers me the opportunity to continue to build and focus on my research understanding and practice in addressing inequities in Māori heart health."– Erina Korohina

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