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Health Research Council throwing millions at woke nonsense

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The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is challenging the value of the latest round of research grants funded by the Health Research Council.

Comparing to last year’s grants, we’ve noticed a big shift towards ‘wellbeing’-centred research that is often, frankly, woke nonsense. Research in the hard medical sciences is forced to compete for the same pool of funding as vague and uber-PC academic papers about decolonisation, intersectionality, and traditional Māori knowledge.

Examples of grants approved in 2021 include:

•  $1.2 million examining the lived experiences of intersectional ethnic minority youth

•  $5 million on iwi-led research explaining how partnership models can improve the health system

•  $1.1 million using the lunar calendar to help Māori connect with their environment

•  $387,000 providing gay teenagers with “decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge”

•  $258,000 to “decolonise the western construct of pharmacist services”

•  $150,000 to design a virtual reality video game about foetal alcohol syndrome

This spending is an insult to New Zealanders stuck in surgery wait lists or seeking access to life-saving drugs. Deep down, Andrew Little must know this is an embarrassing use of taxpayer funds. It’s telling that he opened his statement about the grants by praising the research on cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, conspicuously skipping over the millions handed out to projects that would be received with derision by New Zealanders navigating our bureaucratic health system.

Inevitably, the vested interests profiting from this funding will accuse us of unfairly targeting ‘diversity’ focused grants. But it’s simply the case that intersectionality and ‘mātauranga Māori’ dominates the list of projects. If we ignored the woke grants, there wouldn’t be many left!

The most incredible part of this spending is that’s it’s happening during a global pandemic. You’d think the Health Research Council would be focused on that, but of the 173 grants awarded this year, only seven mention COVID-19.

The Health Research Council gives out around $126 million in funding per year. Below is a list of questionable grants from this year.

Intersectional ethnic minority youth: harnessing creativity for health gains
Approved budget: $1,199,984
our study engages with Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and African youth to explore how their varying social identities, including gender diversity, sexuality, migration, and interactions with health, education and social sectors, intersect with their lived experiences of being from non-dominant ethnic groups.

Kia puawai ake ngā uri whakatupu: flourishing future generations
Approved budget: $4,999,949.60
This collaborative programme of research, hosted by an iwi-owned research centre, comprises an integrated suite of Māori-led studies that seek to contribute to the achievement of equitable health outcomes. The programme will explore the positive change that can occur when Māori have the opportunity to drive solutions and work in authentic partnership models.

Te Maramataka - restoring 'health' by reconnecting with Te Taiao
Approved budget: $1,125,097.05
The maramataka [lunar calendar] is a system our tūpuna used to connect environmental tohu to certain activities – some days were better for intense work, while others were considered ideal for rest and ‘giving back’. … This study aims to … co-design a maramataka-based ‘intervention’ that will support Māori to connect with te taiao [the environment] in uniquely Māori ways

Kia taiohi te tū
Approved budget: $386,985.00
Little is known about the needs and experiences of taiohi [teenagers] growing up in te reo Māori-speaking whānau and with regard to intimate relationships, gender and sexualities. … This kaupapa Māori research is a mana whānau project which aims to build whānau-centred bodies of knowledge that incorporate the successes and challenges whānau are experiencing in using mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] to support taiohi on their journeys. … providing access to decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge.

He tono whakapiki ora: Whānau and pharmacists’ knowledge exchange
Approved budget: $258,471.00
Informed by a kaupapa Māori paradigm, the research will examine the intersect between pharmacists and mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] in a contemporary context to attempt to decolonise the western construct of pharmacist services.

Walk a mile in their shoes - Developing a virtual reality experience of FASD
Approved budget: $150,000.00
We propose to 1) use novel data collection methods to capture everyday lived experiences of FASD [Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder] individuals, and 2) using the data gathered, develop and test if the VR game can raise awareness and foster positive attitudes toward individuals with FASD.

Exploring the role of Tongan faith leaders in influencing wellbeing
Approved budget: $84,033.00
The proposed doctoral study will investigate the role of faith leaders in influencing the wellbeing of Tongan people living in Aotearoa.

Te Kura Mai i Tawhiti - kaupapa Māori early years provision and health outcomes
Approved budget: $1,199,860.64
Our proposed research is led by Māori and draws on mātauranga Māori and Western science. … Findings will help address the need for proven interventions for tamariki Māori that strengthen culturally relevant positive behaviours and can be rolled out nationally.

Aho Tapairu: Developing a mana wahine wellbeing toolkit
Approved budget: $394,035
I am a kaupapa Māori mana wahine researcher committed to projects motivated by decolonial and transformatory agendas. My background is in revitalising customary Māori knowledge as healing interventions for Māori women and their whānau today. … I am also committed to overturning derogatory colonial redefinitions of Māori femininity that leads to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes for Māori women and girls. … I will also create a framework for Māori women to recover their own tikanga and ceremony as healing interventions.

Pacific Islands Families: Thriving Pacific Young Adults
Approved budget: $1,199,365.95
The Pacific Islands Families: Thriving Pacific Young Adults (PIF: TPYA) study seeks to explore how cultural identity, family functioning, and employment impact the mental wellbeing of a cohort of 850 Pacific young adults (aged 22 years).

A kaupapa Māori analysis of Māori cannabis and methamphetamine use
Approved budget: $554,400
I have a deep commitment to improving Māori health outcomes through kaupapa Māori health research. This is reflected in my career development to date, with 15 years' experience in Māori and indigenous health research, including the completion of a PhD in public health exploring the potential of rongoā Māori [traditional healing]. The proposed postdoctoral fellowship includes a kaupapa Māori analysis of the multiple dimensions of Māori cannabis and methamphetamine use.

Kia taiohi te tū
Approved budget: $386,985.00
Little is known about the needs and experiences of taiohi [teenagers] growing up in te reo Māori-speaking whānau and with regard to intimate relationships, gender and sexualities. … This kaupapa Māori research is a mana whānau project which aims to build whānau-centred bodies of knowledge that incorporate the successes and challenges whānau are experiencing in using mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] to support taiohi on their journeys. … providing access to decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge.

Collaboration for child wellbeing
Approved budget: $890,709.00
This grant supports collaboration for child wellbeing. … With the Manaiakalani Kahui ako, we will adapt and test a play-based intervention to improve self-regulation so it is culturally-grounded, engaging, and developmentally scaffolded.

Experiences of children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic
Approved budget: $242,645.00
This project aims to explore the experiences of children, young people and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK with a health equity lens.

A smart toothpaste for the twenty-first century
Approved budget: $150,000.00
A novel bioactive smart toothpaste will be prepared using bioceramics and a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent will provide an inexpensive clinical-grade formulation to mitigate oral infections and ensure implant longevity while also offering the traditional benefits of plaque removal and whiter teeth. The affordable and easily accessible smart toothpaste will significantly improve the oral health of all communities in New Zealand and across the world.

ENDS


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