A new Breast Cancer Fellowship has been established to help address the complex issue of breast cancer and inequities experienced by Māori and Pacific women.

The Fellowship strengthens efforts to address outcome inequities where research shows Māori and Pacific women experience both higher breast cancer incidence (39% and 23% respectively) and higher death rates (65% and 71% respectively) than non-Māori and non-Pacific women.

Dr Maxine Ronald, who was previously a clinical advisor to Te Aka Whai Ora on Hospital and Specialist Services issues 2022-2024 and is now General Surgeon with Oncoplastic breast subspecialty in Northland, has been named the inaugural recipient of the three-year fellowship.

"My aspirations for the fellowship are to strengthen the relationships between communities, clinicians and researchers so that communities and whānau are involved in how their care is delivered, are able to help prioritise what is important to them and to direct research that meets their needs," says Maxine.

"We need to directly address breast cancer inequities for Māori and target specific areas where inequities exist, that will be my focus for the next three years of this fellowship."

Over the three-year fellowship period Dr Ronald will be tasked with building Māori capability and leadership in breast cancer research and intervention studies to bridge these inequities.

The Fellowship is a result of a partnership between Hei Āhuru Mōwai Māori Cancer Leadership Aotearoa, Breast Cancer Cure (BCC) and Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand (BCFNZ).

Co-Chair of Hei Āhuru Mōwai, Dr Nina Scott is also Manager Hauora Māori Research at Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora, working to promote kaupapa Māori approaches to research and redesigning the health system to deliver maximum hauora gains for whānau.

"Improving access to breast cancer screening is the number one intervention we can make to improve outcomes for Māori. Number two is improving speed of access to treatment for Māori women outside the screening programme," says Nina.

"Māori women need to wait longer for access to treatment, because the treatment pathway is not as well-developed as the screening pathway.

"The screening pathway ensures that everybody gets fair access to treatment. It's monitored and when things go wrong they can be fixed fast. However, the non-screening treatment pathway is not as well developed. Māori women are waiting much longer and this is impacting on their chances of survival," says Nina.

Recently, Maxine featured in April's Grand Round Research Symposium to provide a whānau-centred story about cancer screening to set the scene for the following research presentations. You can view the video of the event here.