Medal for Māori health advocate
29 July 2022
Associate Professor Matire Harwood’s passion for reducing inequities and improving hauora Māori has been recognised by her peers.
Associate Professor Matire Harwood (Ngāpuhi) has been recognised for her tireless advocacy for Māori health, especially during Covid-19.
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) awarded Dr Harwood its Community Service Medal at its annual national conference.
RNZCGP president Dr Samantha Murton says, “Dr Harwood is well-known as a hauora Māori leader and her passion for improving Māori health outcomes through research, advocacy, education and clinical practice is really making a difference.”
Dr Harwood is a senior lecturer in the Department of General Practice and Primary Care at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, supervises doctoral candidates and also works as a general practitioner at Papakura Marae Health Clinic, among other roles. She has undertaken medical research on asthma, heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Harwood says the medal came as a complete surprise.
“You feel you are just doing your job, trying to help out as much as you can, being a voice for your community and supporting whānau to access the Covid vaccine,” she says.
Dr Harwood worked with a pop-up vaccination centre next to Papakura Marae as well as working with a team from then Counties Manukau DHB to set up a vaccination bus that delivered hundreds of vaccines throughout south Auckland.
On one of the government’s vaccination days, Dr Harwood recruited a couple of colleagues and her 15-year-old son to phone hundreds of unvaccinated young people, answer their questions and call them in. They vaccinated 600 people that day.
“Later, on the day of the vaccination drive at Eden Park, we vaccinated more people [at the marae] than they did,” Dr Harwood says.
Along with University of Auckland postdoctoral fellow and surgeon Jamie-Lee Rahiri and Māori physician Dr Anthony Jordan, Dr Harwood spoke about vaccination through sport, especially waka ama.
She also gave webinars to kura, answering questions from parents and rangatahi.
“As one of the first people to get the Covid vaccine, I felt obligated to promote that. Plus, I said to my own kids (aged 10 and 15), ‘are you happy to be on the TV, in the media, as the first to get a vaccine at a drive-through centre at a marae?’
“By walking the talk, you can talk to other families and show that it is safe and effective,” Dr Harwood says.
The week before receiving the medal, Dr Harwood had been in the media talking about how primary care was struggling over winter and with Covid numbers still high.
“The medal came at a good time to show that primary care has continued to play an important role through Covid. Being a GP is a fantastic job that should be celebrated even when times are tough.”
FMHS and Liggins media adviser Jodi Yeats
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