Pasifika health research funded at Massey


Dr Sione Vaka, from the School of Nursing has been awarded Health Research Council funding for his research project Effectiveness of Ūloa model.


Three Massey University researchers have been awarded 2017 Health Research Council grants to carry out studies focusing on Pacific health issues.

The Council grants are three of 22 Pacific career development awards in the latest funding round.

Pacific Emerging Researcher First Grant

Dr Sione Vaka

Effectiveness of Ūloa model

36 months - $149,559

Project summary: Pacific peoples have a higher prevalence of mental illness than the general population and current mental health services have been unable to meet these needs. Management of mental illness among Pacific people in New Zealand has largely focused on designing appropriate Pacific cultural tools but has largely ignored cultural understandings and interpretations of mental illness.

Earlier research exploring the meanings of mental illness among Tongan people developed an alternative Tongan model of care based on a communal fishing technique called Ūloa. This model captures Tongan interpretations and constructions of mental distress and is proposed as a model for health practitioners to use.

This project will now determine the acceptability of this model among health providers and service users in South Auckland and investigate its effectiveness in practice. The research will inform mental health service provision for Tongan people in order to lead to more successful treatment outcomes.

Pacific Emerging Researcher First Grant

Dr Siautu Alefaio-Tugia

Curbing the tide of violence! Exploring a Pacific psychological faith-quotient

36 months - $150,000

Project summary: Violence is a serious issue across communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. Commissioned reports, academic publications and media commentaries regularly highlight the exhaustive costs of violence to those involved and society at large. Pacific peoples here feature disproportionately in family violence statistics with high rates of domestic violence. While there is a plethora of reports on Pacific communities, research with Pacific communities guided by indigenous knowledge to inform responses and preventive measures is limited. It is this gap in research and action, which this HRC research project will address through:

-        Identifying Pacific indigenised understandings intertwined with spiritual faith

-        Examining how these are understood and used by families and practitioners

-        Exploring the psychological impact of Pacific indigenised faith-based approaches on family violence prevention and rehabilitation

Pacific Health Research PhD Scholarship

Sesimani Havea

Indigenous approaches to family restoration and wellbeing

48 months - $64,492

Project summary: I have had the privilege of working across the private, public and community sector over the last three decades. For most of those years it has been within the public sector with about one decade within Treasury and in my current and former roles with Massey University in the past 12 years. This award will not only strengthen my capacity and capability but also add to the limited body of literature on Pacific indigenous approaches to health and wellbeing. Faith is an important part of Pacific peoples’ culture. Pacific methodological tools will be used to develop this notion further and to identify faith-based strategies for the prevention of family violence.

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