Whanaungatanga: A space to be ourselves

Teah Carlson, Helen Moewaka Barnes, Susan Reid, Tim McCreanor


Clinical engagement is often removed from everyday social processes familiar to Māori (indigenous people of Aotearoa [New Zealand]), as it can focus on health consumerism rather than communication and connection. The health encounter is not a routine social engagement, patients often feel unwell and experience a range of emotions; feeling unsure, vulnerable, nervous and out of their comfort zone. Patients are faced with health literacy (HL) demands, such as new information, words and concepts and may be faced with making quick decisions. Feeling guided, supported and safe are important factors in interactions with health professionals. Drawing on a literature review and some of the findings from a Kaupapa Māori Evaluation which analysed some participants’ perspectives of the effectiveness and impact of a cardiovascular disease (CVD) medicines health literacy intervention trial, this paper provides a distal understanding of interpersonal dynamics of HL that is vital to understanding how it might be more useful in the context of Māori communities. The paper highlights a shared health system experience expressed by CVD patients as their yearning for whanaungatanga (relationship, kinship, connection) and reciprocal and responsive relationships; a space to be ourselves, to be Māori.

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