Journal of Professional Nursing

Experiences of Maori families accessing health care for their unwell children: A pilot study

Susan Bolitho, RN, MN, Project Public Health Nurse, School Health Service, Regional Public Health, Lower Hutt
Annette Huntington, RN, PhD, Associate Professor of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, Massey University, Wellington

Reference:  Bolitho. S., & Huntington, A. (2006). Experiences of Maori families accessing health care for their unwell children: A pilot study. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 22(1), 23-33.


The aim of this study was to explore with a small number of Maori families their experiences of accessing health care when their children were unwell with a respiratory condition. Although there is a wide variety of literature exploring Maori and their ability to access health care, there is a very limited amount that describes the experience of individual Maori families in accessing health care for their children. A qualitative research methodology was used in the study. Participating families were among those experiencing an admission to a children’s ward between July and December 2003. Four families were interviewed. They discussed in depth their experience of accessing health care for their unwell children. Data were analysed using thematic analysis, and three common themes were evident: family resources, choice of health service provider and parents’ feelings of vulnerability. The findings highlight that while socio-economic status plays a large part in determining the ease with which families can access the needed health care, there are other barriers within the health system which also pose difficulties for Maori.  

Barriers, access to health services, Maori family experience 

‘Our children, our future,’ is a phrase commonly heard throughout New Zealand. It is deemed important that children are kept in good health so that they may endeavour to succeed in all aspects of life. Government has identified child health as one of the main health gain priority areas (Ministry of Health (MOH),1998). In order to promote wellness for New Zealand children a number of frameworks, including the New Zealand Health Strategy (King, 2000), the Primary Health Care Strategy (King, 2001), He Korowai Oranga (King & Turia, 2002) and Child Health Strategy (MOH, 1998), have been implemented. Despite these strategies, Maori children continue to be over represented in statistics related to ill health and hospital admissions throughout New Zealand (MOH). One of the authors (SB) has had considerable experience within both the community and hospital settings and her professional knowledge of the health of New Zealand children prompted her to raise this as an area of research. From experiences while working within a children’s ward she observed that Maori children were admitted to the ward more often than non-Maori children. While reasons for admission were varied, it was clear that respiratory conditions tended to predominate. Therefore it was decided to undertake a small-scale pilot study (Bolitho, 2004) focusing on the experiences of Maori families when accessing health care services for children unwell with respiratory conditions.

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