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Maori Masters scholarship available at University of Otago

Wednesday, December 8, 2021   Posted in: Training By: Administrator With tags: funding, research, maori, health, nutrition, education, qualification

Applications are invited for a Masters scholarship to undertake research on how to support Māori to have sustainable and healthy kai, what interventions and policies Māori would respond to, as well as any current barriers to shifting dietary intake. Eating healthy kai is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Differences in dietary intake have contributed to differences in health outcomes between Māori and non-Māori so it is essential that dietary interventions and policies to be implemented in Aotearoa are as acceptable and effective for Māori as non-Māori. 

The Masters project is part of a larger project funded by the Healthier Lives He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge on healthy and sustainable kai. The research team spans the University of Otago (Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) and the University of Auckland. The project aims to identify ways of eating that keep Aotearoa within the safe operating space for greenhouse gas emissions whilst still being culturally appropriate, meeting population dietary requirements, and minimising cost. It also aims to identify policies and interventions that could shift dietary intake towards these more sustainable and healthy ways of eating. The effects of eating healthy sustainable kai, as well as policies to help New Zealanders move towards these ways of eating, will be modelled to estimate their health effects, their impact on ethnic health inequities, environmental impacts, and costs to both the health system and individuals.

The Masters research will form part of a consultation process to identify policies that are considered feasible and acceptable to key stakeholders, especially Māori. This research will provide policymakers and practitioners with information on how best to improve population dietary intake to maximise health and environmental co-benefits and decrease health inequities between Māori and non-Māori in Aotearoa. The Masters research can draw on any aspect of the overall project so the work can be tailored to specific research interests, but we envisage a project focused on Māori perspectives on sustainable kai.

The Masters student will be supervised by Christina McKerchar (University of Otago Christchurch) and Dr Cristina Cleghorn (University of Otago Wellington). Christina McKerchar will lead focus groups with Māori stakeholders as part of this project’s consultation process. She is a researcher and a lecturer in Hauora Māori with a background in Māori community nutrition. Cristina Cleghorn is Principal Investigator for the overall project and will help run the focus groups and interviews with a range of key stakeholders. She has a background in public health nutrition and cost effectiveness modelling of dietary interventions.

The student may draw additional support from two project advisors if desired:

  • Dr Melissa McLeod (University of Otago Wellington) who is an expert in Māori health and equity in cost-effectiveness analyses; and
  • Dr Lisa Te Morenga (Massey University Wellington), who has expertise in nutrition and Māori health.

The Masters candidate will gain skills and experience by taking a supported role in the consultation with Māori stakeholders. This will involve: engaging with Māori researchers and stakeholders; contributing to the running of Marae-based focus groups and relevant interviews; working with transcriptions of focus groups and interviews; leading the analysis and interpretation of some of the qualitative data; and assisting with shaping policy recommendations and dissemination of the project’s findings.

This project would be well suited to a Masters of Public Health students. The student would ideally be based in Wellington or Christchurch and the role may require some travel for focus groups or interviews depending on when the student joins the project.

The scholarship includes a stipend for one year, a fees rebate (excluding student services fees and insurance) and some research expenses (including travel). There may also be the opportunity for the student to take up some paid work on the project.

Applications are open to students who whakapapa Māori. The successful candidate should have experience or interest in public health, nutrition, health equity or social justice, and have high levels of cultural competence for working with Māori. Ideally, the candidate will have some previous experience in qualitative research. Applicants must meet University of Otago and Departmental requirements for entry into Masters study.

Any enquires about this Masters opportunity can be directed to:

  • Cristina Cleghorn (Cristina.cleghorn[at]; or
  • Christina McKerchar (>Christina.mckerchar[at]