Housing crucial for health of Māori

11:28 am on 16 June 2016

Housing is a crucial factor in the well-being of young mothers and their children, an expert in Māori women's health says.

Otago University associate professor Beverley Lawton is the lead researcher for the Whānau Manaaki project, which is focused on the health of young pregnant Māori women and their children.

Professor Beverley Lawton said Māori women and their children face stark social and health disadvantages. Photo: SUPPLIED / University of Otago

Otago University associate professor Beverley Lawton is the lead researcher for the Whānau Manaaki project, which is focused on the health of young pregnant Māori women and their children.

The project has just received a research grant of $4.7 million from the Health Research Council of New Zealand that will be used for research over five years.

The research will be a collaboration with Ngāti Pahauwera.

Professor Lawton said the first years of life, starting from pregnancy, are crucial for good health later in life, but young pregnant Māori women and their children face stark social and health disadvantages.

She said many of these disadvantages were caused by factors beyond the health system, such as housing.

"We all know that warm housing is related to health, we know that bad housing is related to respiratory infections and admissions to hospitals. (But) it's not just one factor affecting our whānau."

"Our work to date, we've looked quite carefully at what are the barriers. So if someone doesn't turn up to a meeting or turn up at the doctor, you have to look at why didn't she turn up. Why didn't that child come for that vaccination.

"Often it's very simple things like not having transport, not enough money, no childcare for the other children. It's not because women and their families don't want good health. That's one thing that we've showed very clearly."

Professor Lawton said the research will be looking at these broader factors and how they can be changed to improve the health of Māori mothers and their young children.

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