National | Drugs

Urutā: COVID-19 Advice for Māori by Māori health experts

Māori doctors and health experts worried about the lack of Covid-19 planning for Māori have banded together to create a national Māori pandemic group, Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā. The group has created a website and digital platforms to provide expert health advice for whānau, iwi and health providers.

Our country's top Māori doctors and specialists have banded together under the banner Urutā.

“Urutā is a website set up by Māori health experts, including doctors, nurses, health providers and iwi leaders, to provide accurate and consistent evidence-based information for our whānau, hapū and iwi Māori about Covid-19 so that they can make good decisions,” Dr Matire Harwood says, who works as a GP in Papakura, Auckland.

The idea of Urutā was brought together by Professor Paparangi Reid, a public health physician, Dr Rawiri Jansen, a GP, and Associate Professor Sue Crengle, both a GP and a public health doctor.

“Under their umbrella, we have various sub-groups working across different areas, including hospital-based specialists who are Māori, GPs working in primary care, iwi leaders to make sure the information we are disseminating meets their needs, health providers, policymakers (and) funders," Dr Harwood says.

"So we're all working hard, we've got a good level of expertise to cover the things that we think are going to be important for Māori during Covid-19.”

However, the collective has concerns across the board, not just in the health sector.

“Food security is a major issue for us. We're worried about the kids going to school who get the free lunches and breakfasts. What is happening to our tamariki during this time, are they able to get good kai?  Kaumātua and kuia who are often relying on our marae providing meals,” Dr Harwood says.

“Access to the things we take for granted, like the telephone and the internet. How are people able to access health information?

“We're worried about some of our vulnerable populations, for people who are homeless, people living in overcrowded homes. What happens when Covid-19 is introduced to the community?

“As well as people with mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues, who are no longer able to get out and access those services easily.”

When it comes to poverty and health issues, Māori struggle at a greater rate than non-Māori. Dr Harwood says it is important to have some accountability at a time like this.

“We need to keep our government accountable, not just in the health space but in these other sectors to make sure whānau Māori are getting good care and get through this as well and are good at the other end.”

Covid-19 advice for Māori can be found at and across digital platforms.