PhD student finds Māori and Pasifika families have inequitable access to resources

By Te Rina Kowhai

PhD student Rachel Brown is working with Ronald McDonald house and Starship to identify how services provided by District Health Boards can be better tailored to Māori and Pacific families. She says she has seen a number of families who lack understanding around health systems and processes.

A necklace representing her son's Raen Kairua Iakimo's story. Each bead representing every procedure her son endured when having a cancerous brain tumor at the age of seven and again at aged 10.

Rachel Brown says “these are only half of them and I've seen stories with children and no children that have five times the amount of beads.”

Through her families own personal journey Brown wanted to give back by doing a PhD to ensure Māori and Pasifika families voices were also heard when their child is admitted into hospital with a life-threatening medical condition.

Brown says “I observed a number of whanau coming in coming out of Auckland coming outside of New Zealand that didn't have the same support and actually lacked a lot of understanding around our health systems and processes.” “So what sparked in my mind was the question that if I barely coped and I have all the resources with me how the heck did this whānau cope with limited resources and understanding.”

Brown says the main concern she found through her PhD was that there is inequitable access to resources for Māori and Pasifika families.

Brown says “they go into the health system thinking they are dealing with a child with a life-threatening medical condition and actually what they have to cope with, is dealing with the barriers and distractions that are put in front of them in order to get access to available critical resources that help them engage with the care.”

Brown also says there is a lack of transparency thus families could be missing out on financial support.

She says “The research identified critical gaps in the health system, some of them that haven't been researched before and some of them that have and it builds on previous research. It identified Ronald McDonald House as a primary facilitator and a positive influence for Māori and Pacific whānau.”

Over 30 Māori and Pasifika families were interviewed, in addition, stakeholders who supported families. Brown says she was inundated with families wanting to tell their story.

Brown says “I didn't even have to recruit people were willing to tell their story and that brought about healing for them because some people that I interviewed and their children had passed away, they had never talked about it, so it brought healing to them to be able to present that information and get their voices heard.”