Maori women are faking symptoms to get medication or help for their men, who refuse to go to the doctor.
Health providers in Rotorua say Maori men are reluctant to go to their GPs, fearful of receiving bad news, and have welcomed research published this week in AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples which has highlighted the issue.
The research paper said Maori women were going to their GPs presenting the symptoms of their Maori male partners to get health information and medication.
Former general manager of Te Whanau Hauora o Ngongotaha, Rob Beckett, said it happened locally and, in his experience, Maori men were reluctant to go to their general practitioner because they were scared of the likelihood of bad news.
"They might find out they have to go to hospital or to a specialist," he said.
Te Korowai Aroha o Rotorua chief executive Mala Grant was impressed with the research which she said was badly needed.
Maori men were often reluctant to go to a doctor and part of the problem was they often found it hard to talk, she said.
"Because women find it easier to explain things, the partner will often say 'you go'. They'll come in and say my husband has been feeling really, really sick because of whatever."
Other issues involved people not finishing all their medication or sharing it with other whanau members, she said.
One way Te Korowai Aroha is attempting to address the issue is by holding a free men's health clinic at Rotorua's Night Market on Thursday, November 17.
Organiser Iwi Te Whau said it was hoped the approach would make it easier for men while they were "out with their whanau buying tea or their fruit and veggies".
Involving the whole whanau was crucial to getting men to get medical attention, something Te Korowai Aroha tried to do by holding events which included something for all family members.
He said men often used work as an excuse for not going to the doctor and one of the organisation's most successful programmes was Hinu Buster, like television's Biggest Loser, which was workplace-based and involved employers and men tackling the programme in groups, which made it fun.
National television advertising campaigns were also prompting men to get themselves to a health service, sometimes at the urging of family members who were taking in the messages, Mr Te Whau said.
Rotorua Area Public Health Service health promoter Pollyanne Taare said there were signs men were changing. They were becoming more interested in their health, especially with promotions such as Movember, which raised awareness about prostate cancer. Men were especially concerned with heart problems, she said.
"They are taking up the challenge - more so than in the past."
Going to the doctor is not a problem for Rotorua local Wiremu Dawson.
He went to Te Korowai Aroha but lots of his whanau were shy, he said. It helped he could go to a Maori health provider which he found "nice and easy".
The research paper by Darrin Hodgetts, Linda Nikora and Mohi Rua - titled Maori Men and the Indirect Procurement and Sharing of Prescription Medications - looked at how Maori navigated the health system to obtain and use prescription medications.
Daily practices included whanau members prescribing for others and sharing medications. Cost was a barrier that needed to be resolved, as well as some men's reluctance to engage with the medical profession, he said.
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