11:52am Thursday 02 July 2020

New tool sharpens treatment for Māori


Dr Te Kani Kingi

Hua Oranga: A Māori Measure of Mental Health Outcome was conceived by Professor Sir Mason Durie and Director of Te Mata o Te Tau, Massey’s Academy of Māori Research and Development Dr Te Kani Kingi about 10 years ago. The original framework formed the basis of Dr Kingi’s PhD thesis.

After more than a decade of development the framework and measure has now been validated through testing with health providers in the Bay of Plenty.  The work was conducted in association with researchers from the national Māori health workforce organisation – Te Rau Matatini and the Clinical School at Waikato Hospital and will be available for use by health providers nationwide.

According to Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey, mental health concerns remain a significant issue for Māori.

Dr Kingi says there are more than 1200 health measurement tools, and this is the only one of its kind – in that it includes far broader environmental measures of specific relevance to Māori. “To have it validated in this way is potentially significant for mental health development in New Zealand.” The framework is based on the Whare Tapa Whā model of health developed by Professor Durie more than 25 years ago and is widely used in health services and other social programmes.

The benefits of the framework also resonate with a Massey psychology researcher investigating whether mental health treatment is less effective when the religion or spiritual beliefs of patients are ignored

Doctoral student Bronwyn Clark says studies overseas have shown that a therapist’s understanding of a client’s deeply held religious or spiritual views and values is crucial in developing effective treatment, but anecdotal evidence suggest therapists in New Zealand typically steer clear of discussing religious beliefs.

Dr Kingi says there is growing evidence to support the correlation between physical health and wellbeing. “Many of the tools currently in use are too blunt to understand Māori realities.” Dr Kingi says the framework can potentially be used in a broad range of settings.

“Using a conventional approach, treatment outcomes are often determined by whether or not symptoms have ablated or been reduced.  These are positive outcomes and are often assisted by the use of medication.  However, medication can generate unwanted outcomes – such as weight-gain for example – which are not considered as part of the overall outcome analysis.  This measure is a step in that direction and a real attempt to better understand the broad range of factors that contribute to the health outcomes of individuals.

“This will mean that for the first time Māori concepts of health and wellbeing can be considered and benchmarked, and considered over a period of time,” Dr Kingi says.

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