Māori Health Scientist awarded for work on indigenous health

By Te Ao Māori News

A Māori health scientist Dr Matire Harwood [Ngāpuhi] has been honoured with a fellowship in the 2017 L'Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science programme for her research in addressing the inequities of health-related outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Dr Matire Harwood is a clinical researcher at the University of Auckland and has dedicated her career to discovering the inequities in the health outcomes for indigenous people.

She says, "New Zealand are world leaders in this space, we collect the data and we collect really good ethnicity data and have been showing for a number of years now.  Ever since i trained as a Doctor, it shows that there are inequities between Māori and non-Māori."

Now she hopes a $25,000.00 grant that comes with the acclaim will turn her data into action and improve the health outcomes for the 400 million indigenous people around the world.

"It's only with our knowledge and values, with our understanding of what works for Māori health and what's going to help equity in New Zealand that we can actually do something about it," she says. 

Dr Harwood says a key area that needs immediate attention for Māori is to develop a Health work force and build an evidence base around indigenous led interventions where treatments and therapies incorporate Māori knowledge.

She says diabetes, asthma and heart disease are the biggest killers among indigenous people, but would like more focus on mental health.

"We know the disparities in the area of suicide in particularly for Maori, which continue to climb with time and so this is going to be a big area of focus for me over the next 12 months."

Dr Harwood is one of few indigenous women health scientists in New Zealand, a career first envisaged by her grandfather.

"On one hand I was a little freaked out, because I didn't know anybody who had done medicine or I didn't know any Doctors and no one had been to University really at that point. Apart of me was freaking out!

But I thought if Pāpā tells you that this is what he wants to you to do, and if the whānau is behind it, then this is something I'm going to rise to the challenge and try do for him." she says.