The future of increased health research programmes based in Northland, targeted to the region's specific needs looks more promising, thanks to an initiative from the Northland DHB and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Auckland.
A joint Northland research workshop was held at Tohorā House on Wednesday 29 August with a mix of 77 academics, Northland DHB clinicians and community health providers from Northland and the University of Auckland attending to contribute their ideas and experience, in the hope of formulating a plan to increase research opportunities in Te Tai Tokerau.
Workshop organiser Dr Win Bennett said the aim of the workshop was to explore opportunities for the University, Northland DHB and community to work together to facilitate research in Northland.
“We wanted the day to be interactive and inclusive, with a minimum of presentations and an emphasis on interaction. The timing is right because the Northland DHB feels research is auspicious. The high needs population, 30 percent Maori and poor health profile of our region make it a good place to do research. The workshop may be a model for the other areas in the University of Auckland Medical school’s territory which covers the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, across to Taranaki and up to the top of Northland.” Said Bennett.
Head of the School of Medicine at the University of Auckland, Dr Alan Merry said the key reason for doing good research in Northland is because of the impact that it can have on the people in the region, the patients of this DHB and the people that live here. “It’s not about generating papers, it’s actually about generating impact on huge problems, and the problems here in Northland are substantial and they’re local. There are opportunities to address some of these issues through the research that we could do. I think if we can build the capacity and interest in doing this and we can find a way of bringing in some of the resources from the University to work with local people to co-design projects, it would have a huge potential.”
Dr Terryann Clark who lives in Northland and works as a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland and at Manaia Health PHO said she thought it was great to be able to profile some of the research that is currently happening in Northland and also to feel the enthusiasm that there is in here for research. “A lot of people might see Northland as a really tricky area to research in, but for a lot of people here they see it as a great opportunity.” She and others in the workshop believe that the key to doing good research in Northland requires communities identifying their own priorities and partnering with them to ensure the right issues are focused on.
Clark says there are a lot of models that might be useful around making research work in Te Tai Tokerau, but they need to include a really strong partnership with Maori and have a strong equity focus. “We need to be looking at innovative models that work for us, not just trying to revamp existing models. Trying to be ‘A little out of the box’ and do things a little differently because our people deserve it.”
The geographical size of our region, time to fit research in and technology were some of the challenges currently facing researchers here. The proposed solution that came out of the workshop was to develop a research hub in Whangarei with support from the University of Auckland. This would offer somewhere for students, junior doctors and mentors to come together and discuss research ideas, share knowledge and enhance what is already happening here in the region.
Northland DHB Chief Executive Nick Chamberlain said he was thrilled with the quality of the research already underway; and the enthusiasm and commitment from both Northland DHB and Auckland University staff to strengthening Northland’s health research capacity and capability was really encouraging. “Research is a key enabler to us becoming a learning organisation. While taking a number of early steps, I encouraged everyone to think “big” and ensure that Northland becomes a Research Centre of Excellence.”
Dr Alan Merry (above left) and Dr Terryann Clark (right)