Whanāu Like Us

Technology has come a long way since Te Whānau o Waipareira began supporting positive life changes for whānau (family) in West Auckland. 

Now, a partnership between Te Whānau o Waipareira and Precision Driven Health (PDH) is aiming to harness the power of data and artificial intelligence (AI)  to play a part in supporting and accelerating these changes.

Te Whānau o Waipareira has provided services for over 25 years to the wider West Auckland community. It brings together health, social, justice and education services to provide a one-stop location for whānau ora (family health).

The concept of whānau ora is about supporting whānau Māori to achieve their maximum health and wellbeing by putting whānau at the centre of decision making.

Te Whānau o Waipareira seeks to do this through its work in the Auckland community, and as one of a number of partners in the Whānau Ora network in Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island).

Using AI to identify ‘Whānau Like Us’

Partnering with Māori is an increasing area of focus for PDH, recognising both its role as Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi) partners, and the historical inequities that Māori have experienced through Aotearoa New Zealand’s health and disability models of care.

One such partnership has seen PDH supporting Te Whānau o Waipareira and its subsidiary, Whānau Tahi, to undertake the Best Practice Pathways to Achieve Priority Outcomes for Whānau project – otherwise known as ‘Whānau Like Us’.

In the Whānau Ora model of care, ‘priority outcomes’ are selected by whānau based on their own perception of need, ranging from supporting whānau to secure kai (food), accommodation and employment to health related outcomes such as support with healthy eating or understanding how to manage long-term conditions.

Te Whānau o Waipareira has worked with many whānau to achieve priority outcomes since it was incorporated as a trust in 1984. It also has a great deal of data – including what actions (or ‘pathways’)  have led to the desired priority outcomes by individuals and whānau who share similar profiles with those currently seeking the same outcomes.

Alana Harris, Te Whānau o Waipareira’s Outcomes Measurement, Insights & Impact Manager, says her organisation collects “a whole lot of data on our whānau, and it’s a good combination of health and social data.

“We deal with the social determinants of health data and recognise that it is sometimes in those areas, why health outcomes for Māori, aren’t as good as they should be.”

Alana says: “We’ve got a very comprehensive set of rich data from our whānau, so this project is about trying to understand who they are, where they are from, what they want and need. The data helps us understand common themes and trends, and how we need to tailor our support so whānau achieve their planned outcomes.

“We’ve looked at this as an opportunity to [see] what our data is actually telling us about our whānau, and how we ensure that we are using that data to make informed decisions to support them.”

The research is being conducted by Māori, for Māori, and aims to contribute to Māori health gains. The resulting AI prediction model that eventuates from this research will be developed to predict priority outcomes for new and existing whānau, and the best course of action to achieve these, based on past experiences of whānau.

Alana says the final output for this project will be a digital app which Te Whānau o Waipareira’s kaimahi can use to guide a conversation with whānau, input their information and let them know the pathways available to them.

“The kaimahi can put in a keyword…and then the app will give some options on outcomes whānau can choose from. That’s the starting point of selecting what will work for whānau, and then we engage in whakawhanaungatanga, have a cup of tea or share some kai and talk more about what else whānau really need and want.”

Getting the best out of Te Whānau o Waipareira’s data

Alana says working on the Whanau Like Us project with PDH has highlighted areas of improvement Te Whānau o Waipareira can implement when collecting data.

“Waipareira data and our whānau data is typically unstructured. As Māori, we talk; we’re oral, we tell stories – hence why this marriage with PDH and data science worked perfectly because now our data scientists can unpack words, including Te Reo Māori, to see patterns, relationships and trends.

“We attempt to analyse this data by transforming it into something quantitative, so that together with the qualitative data it tells a more accurate story. Four years ago, some of our team saw the potential data science had to play in our future, they were exploring data science before anyone here even knew it was a thing.

“Curiosity allowed us to ask: ‘Imagine if we could do something like ‘predict what whānau want’, to help our people and describe our whānau that was true to their voice and story. Then we could start thinking about, what next and what more can we do? Whanau will always come to us for immediate needs; it’s our responsibility to be the utmost prepared to support that and encourage whānau to also pursue long-term positive change.

“It’s only when you deep dive into the data and the different attributes, that you start to consider ‘maybe they’re asking for kai here because they’re not receiving the right entitlements?

“Maybe it’s because their current wage doesn’t cover their living costs and they are unsure how to ask their boss for a pay rise or pursue better employment opportunities? Maybe they also need to build self-esteem and confidence?

“This is why the research project was really important. Our data is both objective and subjective, so depending on how we transform it, we can start looking at making better decisions, developing better solutions and changing the way we work that suits our whānau and their purposes.”