Recent research from the University of Auckland has highlighted that Māori patients and whānau face a number of barriers in accessing palliative care services for reasons relating to tikanga (ie customs and traditions), unfamiliar and complex services, health professionals avoiding or mismanaging the ‘hard conversations’ around the shift from active treatment to palliative care, and the cultural character of specialist palliative care services.
However many of the Māori patients and whānau involved in the study used a range of high level health literacy practices to inform their critical thinking and decision making. Health literacy is the ability to find, read and use health-related information to make decisions about one’s own health care.
Many of the palliative care providers interviewed for the research identified that palliative care was perceived as a “Pākehā service” (Pākehā is a Māori language term for New Zealanders who are “of European descent”).
Few Māori staff, the organisation of services and even the physical structure of the buildings suggest that the palliative care sector is unable to respond well to culturally specific needs.
The report indicates that some health professionals had a limited ability to help patients and their whānau understand what palliative care services could offer. While some staff had developed skills to address health literacy issues, these skills were not always reflected by their organisations.