At Ageing Well, we understand that ageing is experienced over the course of a lifetime. What influences you in your early years and throughout your life plays a significant role in how you age.
Associate Professor Barry Milne understands this. For the Lifecourse study, he is leading a team of researchers from across the motu investigating the impact of disease on whānau throughout the life span. A lifecourse approach – from early childhood onwards – is essential to inform health and wellbeing policies and programmes that make a life-long difference for all New Zealanders. This is most telling in the Māori and Pacific communities where issues of inequality and inequity have real-life health impacts.
Chronic diseases (such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental health, and obesity), have a direct effect on the middle and later life course, with the impacts being seen increasingly at younger ages in Māori and Pacific communities. However, the indirect effects of chronic diseases on whānau has been less well-studied and is likely to have impacts across the entire lifecourse. The Lifecourse study will investigate the impact of chronic conditions on the whānau, with an emphasis on outcomes that have life-long consequences.
The Lifecourse study is funded in a collaboration between the three health-related National Science Challenges: Ageing Well, Healthier Lives, and A Better Start.
A lifecourse approach – from early childhood onwards – is essential to inform health and wellbeing policies and programmes that make a life-long difference for all new Zealanders.
About the research
This transformational programme intertwines research expertise in life-course data analysis and in Māori and Pacific research methodologies to undertake four main objectives.
First, the research team will investigate the influence of chronic disease on the wider whānau at different life stages. Secondly, they will assess the family, household, and community strengths that allow people in two Tokelauan communities (Auckland and Wellington) to thrive despite the challenges of living in families with chronic disease.
In the third phase, the team will develop a Māori framework for lifecourse research to directly inform research assessing the power of a kaupapa Māori early life and whānau programme to transform outcomes for whānau Māori. The framework will have wide application to lifecourse and longitudinal studies. And in the final part, the research team will develop a whakapapa-centred methodology and framework for conceptualising and doing inter-generational research with whānau, hapu and iwi.
Research is continuing and the team has formulated approaches to Māori and Pacific data sovereignty, and assisting in the assembly of further whakapapa databases to enable iwi and hapū driven intergenerational research.
Ageing Well is looking forward to understanding how living with a person who experiences chronic conditions affects their whānau, and how some communities thrive despite high rates of chronic conditions. We hope that the findings and outcomes from the Lifecourse Study will inform future policy decision-making and develop tools to assist Kaupapa Māori research.
The Lifecourse project is due to be completed in 2023.
The Talanoa Panel discussion following Lifecourse presentation at the inaugural Pacific Peoples Fono, 2021.