A study of Samoan, Tongan , Cook Island Māori, and Niuean infant care practices
Publication Date
Lead Organisation
University of Auckland
Lead Researcher
Vili Nosa, Janine Paynter, Teuila Percival, Maryann Heather, Fiona Langridge
Access Type
Primary Classification
Health and Wellbeing

Inequalities in Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) in New Zealand are stark. SUDI rates are disproportionately high in indigenous and minority communities in New Zealand with 77%of all SUDI deaths being Māori (45.4%) or Pacific infants (31.8%) in 2015. Incidence of SUDI amongst Pacific communities has not declined since 2002. Success in reducing SUDI incidence amongst indigenous populations has been achieved by using a cultural concept to maintain the important physical intimacy between mother and baby. 

There has been a recent increase in death due to SUDI amongst Pacific babies and no significant change since 2002. In 1996,
Colin Tukuitonga urged, “…immediate action with particular emphasis on prevention strategies known to be effective in Pacific Islands communities. Data collection procedures need to capture individual islands of origin because services are dependent on the availability of precise information.” More than 20 years later the 2017 Child and Youth Mortality review committee report indicates that not a great deal has changed, “Culturally appropriate interventions are needed for Pacific communities.” Understanding the social and cultural factors that affect parental choice in sleep practices plus developing and evaluating
new ways to make safe sleep campaigns more effective are two global research priority areas identified at a recent global SUDI workshop. SUDI is a global and New Zealand issue that is imperative to research specific cultural nuances in infant care practices.

Quantitative data (Growing Up in New Zealand) will be used to understand the context for infant care practices  for the majority proportion of Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Māori, and Niuean families. We will conduct interviews with Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Māori, and Niuean mothers from Auckland, Cook Islands and Niue. We will use a general inductive method. Our focus will be infant care practices and trusted sources of advice about infant care. Our research seeks a deeper understanding of specific Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island Māori and Niuean concepts useful for a culturally appropriate intervention or policy change.