May 1, 2023

Funding awarded to young researcher merging Western and Mātauranga Māori perspectives

Funding awarded to young researcher merging Western and Mātauranga Māori perspectives

Ground breaking cancer research aimed at improving health outcomes for Māori communities has received a major boost with the latest funding award from Te Kāhui Matepukupuku o Aotearoa (the Cancer Society of New Zealand) and Hei Āhuru Mōwai (Māori Cancer Research Leadership Aotearoa).

Danielle Sword (Muaūpoko, Te Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāi Tahu), whose innovative approach to cancer research puts Māori health at the forefront, has been awarded the Māori Cancer Research Award.

Danielle, who is supported in her PhD journey by Whakauae Research Services, the only Iwi-owned Māori health research organisation in Aotearoa New Zealand, says that she is deeply committed to investigating cancer treatment from a te ao Māori perspective.

“I want to see our whānau have a better chance at fighting against cancer. This award means I can pursue a PhD that will utilise both Western science and Mātauranga Māori to explore the emerging cancer treatment CAR T-cell therapy and its potential impact on Māori,” she says.

Sword notes her frequent attendance at tangihanga as a child has been a driving force behind her inspiration to work in health research.

“Growing up I realised that, compared to our Pākehā whānau, tangihanga were a regular event. My whānau were passing away due to preventable illnesses and health-related issues far more than the whānau of many of my peers,” she says.

“The support from Hei Āhuru Mōwai and the Cancer Society with this kaupapa gives me more confidence in my mahi as a wāhine Māori scientist and researcher. Along with the support of the research team at Whakauae, I can take the next steps in my mahi towards reducing inequity and reducing those frequent tangihanga,” says Sword.

Tanya Allport, Whakauae Research Services Acting Director, says Sword's work will provide a valuable contribution to our understanding of the impact of new cancer treatment on Māori.

“For too long now, decision-making in the health system has not considered the perspective of the people with the lowest health and wellbeing outcomes. Māori want to have a say in how the system should care for them – Danielle is one of the researchers making that happen,” she says.

“As an Iwi owned and operated venture, Whakauae has a unique voice in the health research sphere. We are thrilled that Danielle's hard work has been recognised and the award she has received will lead to better outcomes for whānau Māori,” says Allport.

The Māori Cancer Researcher Award is the result of a partnership between the Cancer Society and Hei Āhuru Mōwai.

“The award shows the advances that can be made possible for whānau in the health system when Western organisations work in collaboration with Kaupapa Māori organisations, just as Whakauae Research is working in partnership with the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research to support Danielle's mahi. The commitment to each other demonstrated by this award highlights how the health system could operate for the benefit of all New Zealanders,” says Allport.

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