No.1 ranked pharmaceutical company behind reo Māori asthma test

By Peata Melbourne

The Global Index is an initiative that has been put together by the Bill Gates Foundation and the UK and Dutch Governments looking at the top 20 pharmaceutical companies around the world,  and how they're ensuring more patients are getting access to their medicines in developing countries. GSK have topped the index.

"We've fundamentally changed our business model to make sure we've got access to medicines for patients but in order to do that we also need to make money to sustain the business and actually keep investing in research and development so I call that the double bottom line" says GSK New Zealand General Manager, Anna Stove. 

One of the company's kiwi innovations includes a reo Māori version of a global asthma test that measures the control of asthma using 5 simple questions.

"What we saw was often with Māori are disproportionately affected with asthma and the doctor definitely wasn't asking those questions or the patient wasn't feeling comfortable to answer them so these 5 questions we got translated into te reo," says Stove.

GSK has conducted market research in vaccinations in Māori patients and saw that there were lots of barriers including a demand for more patient information to be written in te reo Māori. An idea that the respiratory team at GSK decided would be just as beneficial to their work. 

GSK explain the test in detail saying, "It comes up with a number that the patient can just fill out by themselves, and then hand it to the doctor, and if it's less than 19 it means the patient's asthma isn't as well as controlled as it could be, so it just means a discussion happens with the doctor and hopefully a patient is going to be better treated."

Stove, however, admits translating tests into Māori is not an easy thing to do.

"I check all the documents that go out and you know my te reo is limited and so I always need to get some of our staff who are fluent in te reo to actually check it for me to make sure we're saying the right thing, so I don't think it's trendy I actually think it's the right thing to do" says Stove.

The test in te reo Māori has been well received particularly in South Auckland where there are a high number of Māori families.

"We definitely know that Māori are disproportionately affected in health in New Zealand and it's something we need to focus on it's actually one of our priorities," says Stove.

She believes the hardest thing for GSK is understanding the levers that will drive change, and while they will continue to work with Māori health providers and iwi, it will be a slow process.