Containing Delta in Waikato New Zealand - partnering with Maaori for better outcomes
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National Public Health Service Waikato, Te Whatu Ora Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A514
Background: In the Waikato region of New Zealand, the delta variant of COVID-19 disproportionately affected our most vulnerable populations - Maaori, and the less socioeconomically resourced. COVID-19 presented challenges unable to be prioritised within already complex lives. Historical experiences with government services resulted in a legacy of wariness. Persistence with conventional contact tracing method would perpetuate inequities. New relationships and working pathways were vital in order to successfully control the spread of disease and protect the community. The Waikato response weaved conventional public health approaches with indigenous knowledge (Te Ao Maaori). It was guided by 3 key Maaori values: KAWEA AKE (looking ahead), Manaakitanga (respect and support), and Mahitahi (working as one). Objectives: 1. Describe the COVID-19 delta outbreak in the Waikato District Health Board region between October 2021 and January 2022, 2. Describe the approach taken to manage the outbreak. Results: The delta outbreak disproportionately affected Maaori (70% of cases) and low socioeconomic communities (57% quintile 5). The partnership approach was successful in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Delta was stamped out in a number of vulnerable communities and nearly eliminated from the Waikato region. The outbreak response combined Maaori approach with traditional contact tracing methods: 1. Manaaki first - respecting, enhancing and uplifting others in a way that is culturally appropriate and acceptable, 2. Whaanau centered - placing the priorities of affected families at the center of the response, 3. Mahitahi - working together with indigenous leaders through the sharing of power and collaborative decision making, 4. High trust model - shared understanding of expectations and consequences. Conclusions: The Waikato approach is an example of a successful outbreak response model that was equity-centric and committed to the practical application of Te Tiriti o Waitangi principals.