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      Whakawhanaungatanga: the importance of culturally meaningful connections to improve uptake of pulmonary rehabilitation by Māori with COPD – a qualitative study

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          Pulmonary rehabilitation is known to improve function and quality of life for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, little research has been conducted on the influence of culture on experiences of pulmonary rehabilitation. This study examined factors influencing uptake of pulmonary rehabilitation by Māori with COPD in New Zealand.


          Grounded theory nested within kaupapa Māori methodology. Transcripts were analyzed from interviews and focus groups with 15 Māori and ten New Zealand non-Māori invited to attend pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD. Māori participants had either attended a mainstream hospital-based program, a community-based program designed “by Māori, for Māori”, or had experienced both.


          Several factors influencing uptake of pulmonary rehabilitation were common to all participants regardless of ethnicity: 1) participants’ past experiences (eg, of exercise; of health care systems), 2) attitudes and expectations, 3) access issues (eg, time, transport, and conflicting responsibilities), and 4) initial program experiences. These factors were moderated by the involvement of family and peers, interactions with health professionals, the way information on programs was presented, and by new illness events. For Māori, however, several additional factors were also identified relating to cultural experiences of pulmonary rehabilitation. In particular, Māori participants placed high value on whakawhanaungatanga: the making of culturally meaningful connections with others. Culturally appropriate communication and relationship building was deemed so important by some Māori participants that when it was absent, they felt strongly discouraged to attend pulmonary rehabilitation. Only the more holistic services offered a program in which they felt culturally safe and to which they were willing to return for ongoing rehabilitation.


          Lack of attention to cultural factors in the delivery of pulmonary rehabilitation may be a barrier to its uptake by indigenous, minority ethnic groups, such as New Zealand Māori. Indigenous-led or culturally responsive health care interventions for COPD may provide a solution to this issue.

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          Most cited references 44

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          American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society statement on pulmonary rehabilitation.

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            Pulmonary rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

            Widespread application of pulmonary rehabilitation (also known as respiratory rehabilitation) in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should be preceded by demonstrable improvements in function (health-related quality of life, functional and maximal exercise capacity) attributable to the programmes. This review updates the review reported in 2006.
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              Burden of disease and injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: the Indigenous health gap.

              Disparities in health status between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the total Australian population have been documented in a fragmentary manner using disparate health outcome measures. We applied the burden of disease approach to national population health datasets and Indigenous-specific epidemiological studies. The main outcome measure is the Indigenous health gap, i.e. the difference between current rates of Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) by age, sex and cause for Indigenous Australians and DALY rates if the same level of mortality and disability as in the total Australian population had applied. The Indigenous health gap accounted for 59% of the total burden of disease for Indigenous Australians in 2003 indicating a very large potential for health gain. Non-communicable diseases explained 70% of the health gap. Tobacco (17%), high body mass (16%), physical inactivity (12%), high blood cholesterol (7%) and alcohol (4%) were the main risk factors contributing to the health gap. While the 26% of Indigenous Australians residing in remote areas experienced a disproportionate amount of the health gap (40%) compared with non-remote areas, the majority of the health gap affects residents of non-remote areas. Comprehensive information on the burden of disease for Indigenous Australians is essential for informed health priority setting. This assessment has identified large health gaps which translate into opportunities for large health gains. It provides the empirical base to determine a more equitable and efficient funding of Indigenous health in Australia. The methods are replicable and would benefit priority setting in other countries with great disparities in health experienced by Indigenous peoples or other disadvantaged population groups.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                09 March 2016
                : 11
                : 489-501
                Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
                Author notes
                Correspondence: William MM Levack, Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington, PO Box 7343, Wellington 6242, New Zealand, Tel +64 4 918 6279, Fax +64 4 389 5427, Email william.levack@
                © 2016 Levack et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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