Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health is an open access journal, meaning that it is publicly available on the internet. It is published by Native Counselling Services of Alberta, Canada, in collaboration with Te Rau Matatini here in Aotearoa; Papa Ola Lokahi in Hawaii, and the International Indigenous Council for Health Our Spirit Worldwide.
The latest issue of the journal focuses on Indigenous maternal and infant health. As Rachel Olson and her colleagues write in their Introduction to the issue, the health and wellbeing of Indigenous mothers and their infants is a good indicator to how much a society values and works to ensure the health of its Indigenous populations. Unfortunately in many societies there are marked disparities in the illness and deaths of Indigenous mothers and infants compared to non-Indigenous mothers and infants. This is the case in Aotearoa where over the past 12-18 months presentations by Associate Professor Beverley Lawson of the Women’s Health Research Centre, University of Otago, Wellington have asked the question, “Why do more brown babies die?”
In the issue of Pimatisiwin Dr Mihi Ratima and Dr Sue Crengle examine the literature and statistics on Māori maternal health. They write that Māori women are more likely to have higher risk pregnancies and therefore higher maternity care needs. However, compared with non-Māori women, Māori women report lower levels of satisfaction with the maternity care they receive. The authors write that
“Certain key barriers to adequate antenatal care and/ or care during labour and delivery have been identified among Māori women, including access to information to make informed choices, insufficient numbers of independent practicing Māori midwives, inadequate access to culturally responsive care including whānau-centred services, and cost barriers” (p.353).
In the same issue Mera Penehira and Lyn Doherty describe the piloting of an adaptation of Mellow Parenting, Hoki ki te Rito, for Māori mothers, conducted by Ohomairangi Trust. Their paper provides an introduction to Māori infant mental health as well as traditional Māori parenting practices. The principles of Kaupapa Māori research and thematic analysis were used to identify the themes emerging from interviews with programme participants. For example, the Kaupapa Māori principle of Tino Rangatiratanga (self-determination) referred to participants’ “ability to live and behave in ways that are culturally appropriate and healthy” (p.375). In order to move towards this place of tino rangatiratanga the programme had to provide a safe space for participants to speak.
“Being able to talk about one’s own life experiences was recognized as a critical point of transformation. Participants articulated the way they were able to make connections between how they were parented and how they were now parenting their own children. They spoke of the way understanding this and speaking about it, enabled them to become clearer about the differences they wanted for their own children, and that they then felt they had the power to create that change in their own families” (p.375).
Other papers in the journal look at midwifery education, the evacuation of pregnant women from reserves in rural and remote Canada, birth place and ceremony, a critique of pregnancy exercise recommendations, and reproductive health issues for Indigenous women in Latin America.