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Māori and Pacific wellbeing focus for Health Research Council award winners

29 October 2020

Health Research Council award winners

Four emerging University of Waikato researchers have received Health Research Council (HRC) Career Development Awards to build knowledge supporting Māori and Pacific wellbeing. Collectively, the four awards represent more than $960,000 in investment.

Dr Ngāhuia Murphy and Dr Joeliee Seed-Pihama will undertake fellowships with Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, focusing on different aspects of Māori sexual health and wellbeing.

Dr Ryan G Paul will work with the University’s Medical Research Centre exploring training models for health professionals treating type 2 diabetes. Cori Poimatagi will complete a summer studentship with Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao looking at the role of Pacific identity and spirituality in mental health.

Dr Ngāhuia Murphy

Dr Murphy is a Kaupapa Māori Mana Wahine (Māori feminine worldview) researcher. Her HRC fellowship project will extend on her doctoral research, seeking to revitalise customary terms and knowledge related to Māori women's bodies in order to improve their reproductive and sexual health and wellbeing.

“I intend to do this through the creation of a mana wahine toolkit that will be published on an online platform,” says Dr Murphy.

“The toolkit will recover customary terms and knowledge for the feminine reproductive body that can directly inform decolonising interventions that instill pride rather than shame as a foundation for holistic wellbeing and positive health outcomes.”

Dr Joeliee Seed-Pihama

Dr Seed-Pihama is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Te Kotahi Research Institute. Her HRC fellowship research will explore the needs and experiences of taiohi (youth) growing up in te reo Māori speaking whānau, with regard to healthy sexualities, genders and intimate relationships.

“My Kaupapa Māori research aims to build whānau-centred bodies of knowledge that incorporate the successes and challenges whānau are experiencing in using mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) to support taiohi on their journeys,” says Dr Seed-Pihama.

Her background as a sexuality education advisor for Kura Kaupapa Māori (Māori immersion schools) and a Kaupapa Māori researcher converge for this project, which will support young adults to navigate sexual and reproductive health as Māori, enabling better health outcomes for them.

Dr Ryan G Paul

Dr Paul is a physician in endocrinology and diabetes at Waikato District Health Board, and a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato.

He recently helped develop new clinical guidelines for treating type 2 diabetes in New Zealand. His HRC research will trial blended (online and in-person) education for general practice clinic staff to embed the new guidelines. The end goal is to improve care for patients with type 2 diabetes and reduce health inequities between Māori and non-Māori patients.

“Type 2 diabetes and its complications disproportionately affect Māori, resulting in Māori dying earlier than non-Māori from cardiovascular disease and diabetic renal disease,” says Dr Paul. “We expect this project to reduce inequities in care of Māori patients with type 2 diabetes in the Waikato, and if rolled out beyond our region, to reduce ethnic disparities in care nationwide.”

Mr Cori Poimatagi

Mr Poimatagi is studying a Master of Counselling and works in accessibility services at the University of Waikato.

His research aims to explore Pacific approaches to mental health and wellbeing, encompassing Pacific identity and spirituality. This will help form a Pacific-centred research framework to enable further exploration in this field.

“A higher percentage of Pacific people experience mental health issues, compared to the overall population in New Zealand,” says Mr Poimatagi. “I am committed to growing knowledge in relation to the effects of spiritual displacement for Pacific people both young and old, exploring strategies and approaches that develop resilience.”


The 2021 HRC Career Development Awards for University of Waikato researchers are as follows:

  • Dr Murphy won the Erihapeti Rehu-Murchie Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • Dr Seed-Pihama won the Hohua Tutengaehe Research Fellowship in Māori Health
  • Dr Paul won the Foxley Fellowship
  • Mr Poimatagi won a Pacific Health Summer Studentship

This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Good Health and Well-being

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