Health Equity Fellow: Health Coalition Aotearoa – Helen Clark Foundation – MAS Foundation Collaboration

The MAS Foundation is collaborating with the Helen Clark Foundation and Health Coalition Aotearoa to highlight the underlying economic and societal determinants of health and disease, in particular alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food.

Unhealthy diets, obesity, tobacco, and alcohol contribute about one-third of the overall preventable health loss in New Zealand. The collaboration with Health Coalition Aotearoa and the Helen Clark Foundation seeks to highlight the opportunity we have to prevent harm from unhealthy commodities and to strengthen the foundations of public health.

Under the partnership, the three organisations are sharing expertise and resources to deliver an evidence-based perspective and generate debate on these important disease-prevention issues. The MAS Foundation funding will go towards sponsoring a Health Equity Fellow as a full-time researcher and investigative journalist on the issue, who will be based with the Helen Clark Foundation.

Matt Shand has been appointed as the ‘Health Equity Fellow’. Matt was a senior journalist for Stuff and led high-profile investigations. He believes in making research and evidence accessible through storytelling and the right story can change societal issues. He is excited to research topics of importance to the health and wellbeing of the people in New Zealand.

University of Auckland Breast-Feeding Research

Portrait of Dr Abbie BaskettWhile about 80% of Kiwi babies are fed exclusively on breastmilk in the first days of life, this drops to 49% six weeks after birth and to 17% at six months. For some mothers, breastfeeding never becomes established for various reasons.

MAS Foundation grants helped the University of Auckland’s Dr Abby Baskett fund two University of Auckland summer research internships. One was focused on mapping the availability of breastfeeding support around the country, and the other assessed the amount of breastfeeding content taught in relevant undergraduate and graduate health programmes at New Zealand universities.

SIAOLA - Vahefonua Tonga Methodist Mission Charitable Trust

Vahefonua Tonga Methodist Mission Charitable Trust (SIAOLA) is a social service based in Auckland, helping Pacific people with a special focus on Tongan people and their families.

The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects Pasifika communities, with distressed and disadvantaged families lacking the confidence and digital literacy to access government and not-for-profit sector resources and services.

MAS Foundation funding has helped SIAOLA employ a full-time ‘Navigator’ to help these families navigate the health system, referring them to Pacific Health and social service providers. They also supported family wellbeing by distributing food parcels, and there was a focus on updating their contact details with local GPs to enable effective contact tracing.

Tū Taikākā – Te Whanau Tokotokorangi Trust

This Rotorua-based trust is a Kaupapa Māori organisation that provides health and disability services. Youth, who are most at risk, are the ones often put in the “too hard basket”. There is little support for the health and well-being of youth at highest risk. This situation is further exacerbated during the time of national crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. MAS Foundation funding is going to support a new project to build a community-based programme for the most at-risk young people in Rotorua. Using the Te Whare Tapa Wha framework for a person’s holistic health, the programme will support these individuals, and their whanau become healthier in many ways.


MAS Foundation is pleased to be working with Paerangi, an online information and referral centre designed specifically for whānau hauā (whānau with impairments), nga marae and kaumātua. 

Considered the first of its kind in Aotearoa, Paerangi was created in response to COVID-19. It is an information and referral clinic that shares official COVID-19 information through digital channels and a call centre in English, te reo Māori and NZ Sign Language. Approximately 350 organisations providing support services in Tāmaki Makaurau are listed so whānau can seek help for medical, disability supports, food banks, mental health, housing, financial, job support, tikanga Māori, marae and awhi whānau services from one accessible, Māori-relevant site. 

Lockdown Doctors: Reducing Māori health inequities - Dr Erena Wikaire

Portrait of Dr Erena WikaireMAS Foundation are supporting the work of Dr Erena Wikaire and Associate Professor Matire Harwood as the lead investigators of "Lockdown Doctors: Reducing Māori health inequities". The Kaupapa Māori research project will investigate the use of Virtual GP clinics by Māori health professionals to deliver healthcare to Māori communities during the COVID-19 Lockdown period. This qualitative study will explore how Virtual GP clinics may reduce barriers to healthcare for Māori whānau, and will inform the ongoing delivery of healthcare using this method. 

Researching disinfection and reuse of PPE

Portrait of a person putting on PPEA team of researchers from the University of Auckland, the University of Otago and NZ company UV Solutionz are developing a process that enables personal protective equipment (PPE) to be safely disinfected for potential reuse by doctors, nurses and frontline healthcare workers. Initial estimates are that the disinfection protocol would increase the available supply of N95 face masks alone by 400 per cent, with the designed system capable of irradiating 300 masks per hour.

MAS Foundation funding is going to support this research, which is also being funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund.

Good Fellas Project – Men’s Health Trust NZ

Portrait of Selio Solomon 

The trust promotes good health for New Zealand men, and the MAS Foundation funding will support the trust’s new ‘Good Fellas’ project. The project is about supporting mostly Pasifika and Māori men in South Auckland in terms of their mental health and well-being. There will be many men who lose their jobs as a result of the wider economic impact of COVID-19, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and increased tensions in the home. This project is a complex and multi-layered one, but essentially it is about preventing family harm in a more ‘strengths-based’ way – i.e. by supporting the well-being of men.   

Rapid evidence review online platform – National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) 

NIHI, based at the University of Auckland, is currently ‘bridging’ academia and policymakers and decision-makers. The COVID-19 pandemic raises many questions and challenges for decision-makers. Decision-makers need up-to-date and scientifically accurate information to inform their decisions. Academic public health medicine specialists are able to do rapid evidence reviews, summary literature reviews, for example, about an aspect of prevention or management of COVID-19. These reviews are requested by and then provided to decision makers.  The current system for this (including peer review, version management, and distribution) is email-based, and MAS Foundation funding will support the development of an online platform to make this process faster and less labour-intensive. 

Āmio: a Covid-19 Chatbot – Ark Health Discovery (Salt Innovation) 

 Portrait of Ark Health Discovery Cofounders

This grant from MAS Foundation will help make information on COVID-19 accessible to the two million New Zealanders who use Facebook each day. The grant furthers the development of Āmio, a COVID-19 dedicated chatbot that is hosted on Facebook Messenger. Launched in February, Āmio has already exchanged over 200,000 messages via Facebook Messenger. He is free to access, includes a variety of information about COVID-19 and includes a self-assessment tool to guide users through testing criteria. If Āmio cannot answer a question, he can redirect it to a medical professional for a direct response or the relevant Government website.  

Pacific Leadership Forum 

The Pacific Leadership Forum represents a network of senior Pasifika leaders from inter-denominational church and community groups across New Zealand. The MAS Foundation funding will help the Forum coordinate their leaders to better educate their communities about COVID-19 and the precautions they need to take, and to build communities’ long-term resilience and help them adapt to the post-COVID-19 environment.  

Otara Health Charitable Trust 

Otara Health has been a part of the Otara community since 1998, providing diverse programmes focused on improving social and health outcomes for whanau and neighbourhoods across the Otara community. The grant to Otara Health will increase the capacity of this organisation to assist members of their community with food parcels, winter needs and to access other services. Otara Health staff will walk alongside families to help them navigate the long-term effects of COVID-19.

Tukau Community Fund 

Established in 2017, the Tukau Community Fund and Legacy Clothing work to enhance rangatiratanga (self-determination) and empower the Moerewa and Kawakawa communities in the Far North. Period poverty is an issue in this region and it’s exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown. The MAS Foundation funding is going to support this group, particularly to provide free reusable sanitary products for women. 

Wellington Volunteer Student Army 

The Wellington Student Volunteer Army is a group of students in the Wellington region who have mobilised to help those in need during the COVID-19 lockdown, including running errands, delivering food and essential items, and community outreach to combat loneliness. The MAS Foundation funding will help the Student Army continue to provide its services throughout 2020 as the COVID-19 situation develops. 

Te Kōhao Health 

Te Kōhao Health has been operating for 25 years across the Waikato region, providing healthcare, education, and social and justice services to around 8,500 people. They have been making their medications free during COVID-19 and are delivering these to their patients free of charge, so they do not need to come into Te Kōhao. The MAS Foundation funding will help Te Kōhao take care of whanau as winter approaches, including providing food, blankets and other necessities.