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Source: Massey University

The research will explore health and social services for rangatahi in Wainuiomata and Lower Hutt.

Massey University researchers running a four-year programme aiming to improve the hauora-oranga (health-social) services for rangatahi Māori have been granted nearly $1.4 million from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

The Tihei Rangatahi programme will follow on from a partnership that has been in progress for more than two years between Massey health researchers and Kōkiri health and social services. It looks at tailoring health and social services specifically for rangatahi in the Wainuiomata and Lower Hutt region.

Some of the current programmes Kōkiri offer to 10 to 17-year-olds include after school and school holiday programmes, high school transition, advisory and leadership and environmental awareness. 

But they have found a gap in the hauora-oranga services being offered for rangatahi Māori – something Massey’s Dr Tupa’ilevaililigi Ridvan Firestone and her team want to change. 

Dr Firestone, who will lead the project, says the services may need more mental health resources (or support) and information about lifestyle practices, such as healthy eating. Part of their research will be discovering what the priorities are for rangatahi, in terms of their wellbeing. From there, the team will co-design a health wellness programme.

“The grant gives us an awesome opportunity to work together to enhance health outcomes and reduce inequity for Māori, in terms of co-designing a health services that is relevant for rangatahi Māori  – we will be able to do that with Kōkiri staff, rangatahi and their whanau.” 

She says the researchers, rangatahi and the programme kaimahi (mentors) will work and learn from each other through  the planning, designing and implementing processes of the programme. 

“We will carry out a dynamic evaluation process throughout the four years to ensure the work sticks to the milestones of the programme and is staying true to what they’re trying to do.”

Kōkiri is part of the Takiri Mai te Ata Whānau Ora Collective which represents different aspects of the services provided for residents and Māori in the region. The collective will advise the study, in terms of the direction it goes and what they believe will best support whanau and the community. 

She said the grant will provide her team of eight-whose expertise range from clinical psychology to nutrition, public health and Tikanga Māori health- a unique opportunity to work alongside Kōkiri staff and rangatahi. 

The programme will also adapt an existing Māori and Pacifika mobile health app, OL@-OR@, that Dr Firestone and a co-investigator of the programme, Dr Lisa Te Morenga, helped co-design alongside a larger team funded by the National Science Challenge’s Healthier Lives project. 

With this programme they will focus on the the Māori OL@-OR@ app that will be used by rangatahi and whanauas a health support tool. 

Dr Firestone said the programme is also based on the learnings of the Pasifika pre-diabetes youth empowerment programme, which is due to finish next month – also funded by Healthier Lives challenge.

“It utilises a specific co-design approach that was piloted among Pasifika youth to build youth capacity and capability. Taking that model and adapting it to a Māori worldview and context will be exciting and transformational,” she says.

The funding is one of 32 research grants announced as part of the council’s new Health Delivery Research portfolio, with another round yet to be announced.