Research themes and strengths in the College of Health , Ngā ariā rangahau

Across the College of Health, we engage in a wide range of research activities. Learn more about our research themes and strengths.

Hauora Māori

Hauora Māori is a holistic, culturally framed view of health and wellbeing. We adopt the whare tapa whā model of Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie, which likens Hauora to the four symmetrical walls of a whare (house):

  • taha tinana (body)
  • taha hinengaro (mental)
  • taha wairua (spiritual)
  • taha whānau (family).

In our research we focus on equity, health determinants, health status over time, and health status for groups of Māori, including children, women and older people. We conduct research through Māori ways of knowing and being, including appreciation of te reo me ngā tikanga Māori.

Under a kaupapa Māori research framework, we use a variety of research methods. These include:

  • qualitative interviews
  • statistics and epidemiology
  • clinical studies
  • environmental studies
  • policy studies.

We especially focus on and support Māori workforce development at the postgraduate level. We operate the successful Te Pūmanawa Hauora doctoral school and training programme, which has graduated over 30 doctoral students since its establishment in 2000.

Pacific health

Our Pacific health research uses Pacific-based design, methods, and processes underpinned by cultural values and principles that are responsive to the changing needs of Pacific people. It focuses on a wide range of predominantly non-communicable diseases, and is often conducted in partnership with Pacific community groups, organisations and health service providers. This research contributes to new knowledge that aims to improve prevention and health service delivery options.

The Pacific health research team is a dynamic growth area at the College of Health. The work of Dr Ridvan Tupai-Firestone and Associate Professor Sunia Foliaki, who support and mentor emerging Pacific health researchers including Pacific master’s, PhD and postdoctoral candidates, has been foundational in the development of a comprehensive research programme. The team also supports research training in the Pacific region, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s epidemiology course in Tonga.

Current research includes:

  • co-designing a family programme for the prevention of obesity, prediabetes, and poor dental health among Pacific children
  • navigating indigenous Pacific knowledge and practices in relation to contemporary dietary patterns and the development of diet-related diseases
  • identifying barriers to hospice and palliative care and asthma control for Pacific children in New Zealand
  • developing and implementing the Tonga Health Workforce Activity project.

Health equity and social justice

We engage in research that promotes health equity and social justice. This research seeks to address:

  • inequitable access to healthcare services
  • social and economic disparities
  • ethical obligations and human rights that affect health and wellbeing.

Public, environmental and occupational health

Our public, environmental and occupational health research focuses on promoting health, improving our environment and workplaces, improving quality of life, and reducing health inequalities and disease for individuals, whānau and communities. Our research influences national and international health agendas.

Key areas of research expertise include:

  • epidemiology
  • non-communicable diseases
  • occupational health and safety in the workplace
  • effects of noise on human health
  • acoustics in learning and healthcare environments
  • occupational health and safety (OHS) in small enterprises
  • OHS auditing and assessment of safety performance
  • occupational health interventions
  • environmental health indicators
  • sleep, fatigue and shift work management
  • disability and rehabilitation
  • mental health and addiction
  • maternal and child health
  • toxic substances and diffuse and other chemical contamination of the environment
  • human health and risk assessment
  • volcanic hazards and impact on health
  • impact of disasters on resilience and health
  • public health nutrition.

Primary health care and professional and clinical practice

Primary health care is a whole-of-society approach to organising and strengthening national health. It addresses the broader determinants of health, empowers individuals, whānau and communities, and is widely regarded as the most inclusive, equitable and cost-effective approach to strengthening the health system to prepare for, respond to, and recover from crises.

Primary health care is the “front door” of the health system. It supports essential public health functions and responds to surges in demand for services. In Aotearoa, meeting Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations requires the government to design and administer the primary health care system to actively address persistent Māori health inequities.

Our research is focused on improving equity, access, and patient health outcomes in general practice, aged residential care, and other community settings. Our clinical research helps build the knowledge base for registered professionals to solve contemporary problems in:

  • nursing
  • nutrition and dietetics
  • sport and exercise and physiology
  • occupational health and safety
  • mental health and addiction
  • public health
  • social work.

Social and commercial determinants of health

Health is impacted by social factors, including the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work and grow old, and the systems that deal with illness. These factors are shaped by economics, social policies, politics and commerce. They require multi-sector policy responses, informed by transdisciplinary research.

Commercial factors also impact health. Our research in this area focuses on strategies used in the private sector to promote products and choices that are detrimental to health, including the marketing, availability and price of health-harming products.

In our research we also analyse the processes of policymaking and implementation, looking at the multiple influences that determine a collective response to corporate interests and going beyond evidence of harms and evaluation of policies.