Aerial view of a typical forest in New Zealand
Project Type - Pilot Projects

Exploring Climate Change, Ecological Stress and Brain Health from a Māori Perspective

Investigating and raising awareness of links of climate change and brain health


The pilot project aims to explore and raise awareness on links between climate change, social determinants of health and brain health in older Māori in Aotearoa / New Zealand.

Project Details

Climate change will exacerbate health inequities and compromise chances for healthy ageing, such as maintaining brain health and mitigating dementia risk. Impacts of climate change, for example, rising sea water levels and fresh water contamination, are already apparent in eco-sensitive regions, and severe weather events, such as flooding, draughts and cyclonic storms, are becoming more frequent in most regions of the world, including Aotearoa / New Zealand. This increasingly threatens living conditions – the social determinants of health, which are key for ageing-related health outcomes. The impacts of climate change and perceptions on climate change, often framed as a stressor (“ecological stress”), have likely consequences for brain health and dementia risk, which need to be understood and addressed. 

The pilot project aims to:

  1. Explore the perceived relationship of climate change, ecological stress, social determinants of health, and lifestyle risk factors associated with mate wareware / dementia from the perspective of older Māori. Māori worldviews are centred around the interconnection of everything living and non-living. Māori define quality of life based on the health of ecosystems: "Ko ahau te taiao, ko te taiao, ko ahau" (Ngāti Wai and Ngāti Whatua). The research will be based on a co-designed qualitative study.
  2. Raise awareness on links between climate change and brain health through narrative and visual storytelling centring on the lived experiences of study participants.

The pilot will provide initial evidence and bring this emerging topic on the global radar of researchers and mainstream audiences to incite future research and policy action. The long-term vision is to develop and implement holistic public health interventions promoting sustainable living conditions and enabling healthy lifestyle choices, which take climate change into the equation: good for the environment, good for the brain – and vice versa.