The knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of young Māori women in relation to sexual health: a descriptive qualitative study
Good sexual and reproductive health is fundamental to the overall health status of Māori communities. In 2001, the Ministry of Health reported that New Zealand was facing a Chlamydia epidemic. This epidemic has not abated as rates of Chlamydia have increased significantly in the past five years, with disproportionately high rates in young Māori women compared to non-Māori women. Despite significant sexual health disparities, young Māori have had limited opportunities to participate in research focussed on sexual health and voice their opinions and concerns on sexual health issues. This qualitative descriptive study has used a Māori inquiry paradigm and approached the research from a Kaupapa Māori perspective. The primary research question asked what the knowledge, attitudes and reported behaviours of young urban Māori women were in regards to sexual health and in particular, the sexually transmitted infection Chlamydia. Secondary aims were to ascertain the sources of information used and accessibility of sexual health services, as well as identifying resilience factors associated with protection against Chlamydia infection. The data was collected from semi-structured interviews with 16 young Māori women living in the Auckland region. Data analysis involved the inductive approach of categorical content analysis to identify major categorical themes to answer the specific questions posed. The main conclusion was that there are a number of barriers to accessing quality sexual health information and services for young Māori women. Participants’ level of knowledge varied reflecting their personal experiences and many were unaware that Chlamydia is asymptomatic and that delayed diagnosis can lead to fertility problems. The main sources of sexual health information accessed were whānau, peers, school, and contact with health professionals. Racism was identified as one of the barriers to sexual healthcare services. The young women expressed a clear preference for sexual health services to be delivered by Māori. Most importantly, for sexual health interventions to be successful it is essential that Māori communities, including young people and their whānau, are an integral part of creating positive solutions. Resilience factors that may help protect young women from contracting chlamydia characteristic of this group were having a strong connection with a caring adult or friend and parents who viewed sexuality as a normal part of adolescent development. In addition, having a positive Māori cultural identity with an ability to understand bicultural differences was strongly associated with participants accessing sexual healthcare services despite identified barriers.