Equitable perinatal mental health outcomes for Pacific women

Scoping research commissioned by Northern Regional Alliance (NRA)

Project background
The Northern Region District Health Boards commissioned Moana Research to capture narratives from Pacific families on why Pacific women continue to have lower access to secondary maternal mental health services compared to Māori and others. There was a need to understand the general acceptability and experiences encountered of current perinatal mental health services for Pacific peoples. This included challenges that were also experienced which would provide recommendations.

A Pacific framework, the Fa’afaletui Model (Tamasese, 2008) was the selected approach for this research. Fa’afaletui is a Samoan research framework that enables the collection, sharing, and validation of different levels of knowledge within the Samoan community. Talanoa was facilitated with 10 focus groups across the Northern Region (Counties, Manukau, Waitemata) with a total of 58 participants. Three talanoa sessions were delivered before the second Covid-19 lockdown. However, to progress the study during lockdown, talanoa sessions continued via zoom with seven focus groups taking place online.

Benefits for families and communities
The findings from this project reaffirmed what existing literature has stated about the barriers or reluctance that Pacific peoples experience in accessing health services. Although the need for culturally appropriate services and workforce has been echoed consistently in reports including the Government’s Mental Health Inquiry (New Zealand Government, 2018), the findings from Pacific mothers reiterate the need for actioning recommendations. The importance of core values associated with engaging Pacific peoples and outlined in Pacific models of health often applied across the health sector including a Pacific primary mental health care framework (Faleafa, 2020).

Further analysis reveals significant barriers and enablers to access for Pacific mothers, fathers and families needing Pacific perinatal mental health services. These components when explored further were found to inter-relate with each other in important ways. Trust was found to be an important pre-requisite for any level of engagement and more importantly, disclosure by mothers and families. Further to this, once there was disclosure, a quality, responsive service that met the needs of Pacific families in turn, led to further increased trust, and thereby acceptability, further connections and awareness by Pacific peoples.