Tania Cargo co-leads A Better Start’s Resilient Teens team, which is working with Māori and Pacific students, schools and communities to co-design and test a digital platform to offer young people and their families easier access to evidence-based help and advice to maintain good mental health.

Here she talks about her wish for this year, the best piece of advice her nana gave her, and why she’d like to meet Melinda Gates. 

Can you tell us about your project, and why it’s important?
Our project is called HABITs “Health Advances through Behavioural Intervention Technologies”. It is about trying to provide teens/rangatahi and their whānau with ways to support psychological wellbeing/hauora hinengaro through the use of digital interventions (DI’s). DI’s have the advantage of being able to be accessed and used by teens 24/7. So when and where youth want or need to access support.

What stage is your research at?
We are excited to be implementing HABITs into 4 high schools. We have a HABITs ambassador at each school who helps staff and students to be able to use the tools. We can’t wait to see how each school is able to benefit from HABITs and what the evidence says.

What makes you excited about this project?
That more young people will be able to get support, when they want and need it. We know that 75% of young people who want support aren’t able to access it. So being able to have a DI as an option is really helpful.

What do you love about being involved with A Better Start?
I love the fact that we all want our tamariki, rangatahi and whānau to have the best possible start to life and to maintain and expect that hauora should and can be attainable for all. I love the other amazing researchers I work with throughout New Zealand and overseas and that we all have a similar desire to help make a difference. I also love the MBIE has allowed us to have a longer term approach to delivering impactful and relevant research.

2020 was a disruptive and difficult year for many. What is your wish for this year? 
I wish for us, as Kiwis, to be able to embrace technology and see it as adding value to the way we support young people and their whānau.

The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My nana always said “he aha te mea nui… he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata”. The most important thing in this world is people. She encouraged us to keep working on relationships and to keep your whānau together.

A great book you have read recently? Barack Obama’s book A Promised Land. Incredibly inspirational.

The five people (alive or not) you would love to meet? 
1. I met Dame Whina Cooper once, when I was a lot younger, so would love to chat to her again. 2. Rosa Parks – what she did was inspiring. 3. Barack Obama after having read his book. 4. Michael Jordan – to talk about his work that he is doing now. 5. Melinda Gates – I’m pretty sure she is the brains.

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