HRC has funded a series of studies led by Professor Beverley Lawton (Victoria University of Wellington) addressing stark disparities between Māori and non-Māori mothers and their newborn children’s health outcomes, access to health services, and mortality. This includes a study of severe maternal health events (SAMM or ‘near misses’ – strongly associated with maternal mortality, stillbirth and neonatal death and harm, particularly for Māori) which found that almost 40% of cases were potentially preventable and most of these were due to clinical error.
Professor Lawton’s work has informed reviews of pregnancy and antenatal services, with the Ministry of Health investing $2 million in the introduction of a sustainable nationwide severe acute maternal morbidity audit programme led by the Health Quality and Safety Commission.
Professor Lawton is currently leading an ambitious research Programme supported by the HRC’s Rangahau Hauora Māori investment stream to investigate the healthcare delivery system and the structural determinants of health – including housing, racism, transport, income, and education – that impact on the health of Māori women and their babies and whānau.
The research team has been involved in the formation of an international network of researchers, the International Research Group for Indigenous Women’s Health, which aims to develop best practice models that align with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, along with informing government and health sector policy and practice through locally-relevant and culturally-appropriate recommendations.
The network has already consulted with the Ministry of Health regarding barriers to accessing health services as part of the National Travel Assistance Scheme Review.