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Misty Edmonds and Dr Kevin Roos are doing things a little differently when it comes to upskilling researchers on engaging with Māori.

Edmonds leads a team including Roos which has developed the long-sought degree, Te Tohu Paetahi Tikanga aa-Rangatira, Bachelor of Nursing Maaori (BNM) at Te Waonui o te Maatauranga, the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT). Edmonds and Roos have also joined forces in Edmonds’ Iwi United Engaged (IUE) to give researchers the tools to ensure Māori are engaged in, and can access the benefits of, research across Aotearoa.

“My goal is to put myself out of a job by ensuring equitable access for Māori across the motu/land,” says Edmonds. She jokes that the relationship IUE’s developed with the Auckland Bioengineering Institute is “all part of an evil plan to infiltrate the ABI from the inside out to help researchers improve their understanding of Māori health needs”.

Edmonds (Ngāti Tuwharetoa) has over 25 years’ community engagement of Māori as a youth nurse specialist and Māori health in Counties Manukau region. More recently she has worked with the University of Auckland, researchers, and healthcare venues. She teaches Māori and Pasifika healthcare and health outcomes at MIT’s School of Nursing.

“My approach works because it is a Kaupapa Māori approach to engagement, consultation and cultural safety, providing workshops, project management, focus groups and bridging the research divide,” says Edmonds.

Roos (Saami/Ngāti Toarangatira) coordinates research projects and management, literature generation, development of materials and applications, and presents workshops. He’s also a biomedical engineer gradually collaborating with ABI pulmonary researchers and other teams as opportunities arise. No topic or theme of research is out of his comfort zone.

In 2021, Misty worked to link ABI research teams in a month-long Hauora Experience programme. Students worked alongside those teams, delivering a presentation on their experience from a Māori perspective at the end of the month.

IUE links students with specific ABI research teams and the students spend a month working alongside those teams. At the end of the month, they deliver a presentation on their experience from a Māori perspective.

Students Jodi Rangitaawa and Keryn Wallace spent a month working within ABI’s Heart Mechanics Research team – an inter-disciplinary collaboration between experts in bioengineering, physiology, software development, and medical imaging. The team has developed an interactive 3C model showing how the heart’s ventricles work.

Using Te Manawa as their example, Rangitaawa and Wallace developed a mana enhancing Kaupapa Māori methodology that uses ABI technology to empower Māori to learn about their own condition to encourage healthy choices. Watch their presentation.

“The wow factor is the capability for whaiora to have their own heart on display. The more we learnt about this, the more we thought about how Māori could access this,” says Rangitaawa.

“You could have a hovering function with terms in Māori and English, break down the clinical terms to enhance the mātauranga. Then it doesn’t have to be solely in hands of a health practitioner. It’s not about changing the terminology; it’s about explaining it to Māori,” says Wallace.

“When you’re talking about heart attacks, if you’re not delivering the information in a way the user will understand, it could jeopardise the mana of the software,” she says.

Rangitaawa and Wallace made recommendations in their report, including the idea of growing the spaces where Te Manawa is already being used, such as at Middlemore Hospital, creating a feedback loop and turning it into an app.

And what did the researchers learn?

Kate Gilbert writes: “This project gave us the opportunity to understand better ways to engage with Māori communities. Each hui with the students gave us insight into what we could be doing differently and how to move forward in partnership. I feel very privileged to have got to know these two extraordinary women over the last few weeks. They were so forthcoming in sharing their knowledge and working with us.”

Prasad Babarenda Gamage writes: “It was a privilege collaborating with Jodi and Keryn. Our huis were fun and productive, and helped us work together to explore practical opportunities for enhancing engagement and interaction with Maori communities that we certainly would not have been able to identify on our own. I really value the knowledge that Jodi and Keryn shared with us, and would like to thank IUE for giving us the opportunity to work with them - I consider it a highlight of my year and really looking forward to future collaborations with them.”

Student placement is just one part of the IUE relationship with the ABI.

“Working with Māori is more than just one meeting. You must be trusted. ABI researchers sat through our focus groups for the BNM – they got to see real life, how it is, the good and the bad. That enabled them to discuss and reflect – I can change my practice, I can engage and work safely,” says Edmonds.

Professor Martyn Nash heads the ABI’s Heart Mechanics Research Team. “It’s about taking control of your own health. We must empower Māori – and others – and help them make a difference for themselves.”

The IUE approach includes a series of eight workshops focused on health and wellbeing that examine the relationship between Māori and the crown agencies and institutions such as universities and centralising a Kaupapa Māori approach to engagement to enhance partnership, participation, and advancement of Māori health. Or, as Edmonds says, “Before we unleash you, we make you safe and keep you safe”.

ABI judged the 2021 workshops a big step forward and is planning a further round in 2022.

The month in the ABI happily changes practice in both directions which is great, and we’re already seeing new relationships developing off this experience. The value gained is far beyond the dollars,” says Edmonds.

“This programme isn’t a standalone. It’s already created internships and calls for scholarships. Now we need to fund them so the students can work over the summer,” says Roos.

IUE’s goal is to advance Māori health by ensuring Māori are partners in research rather than an ad-hoc tick-box addition. As Edmonds says, it’s about Māori taking a seat at the table in the development and shaping of the health research agenda in Aotearoa.


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