Asthma in Pacific to be studied
The Universitys Centre for Public Health
Research has just been awarded a $224,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust
for a study of asthma in children throughout the Pacific.
Centre director Professor Neil Pearce says the grant includes a Fellowship
for Dr Sunia Foliaki from the Ministry of Health in Tonga, who will be
based at the centre (in Wellington) for two years.
Dr Foliaki will co-ordinate the International Study of Asthma and Allergies
in Childhood (ISAAC) in the Pacific region.
Phase one of the ISAAC study involved 700,000 children in 180 centres
in 60 countries, but the only Pacific countries involved were New Zealand
The study is now being repeated to examine time trends and to include
new countries. This time around, the countries included from this region
are New Zealand, Australia, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, the Cook Islands, New
Caledonia, French Polynesia, and possibly a number of other countries
such as the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Guam, Yap, Palau, and other countries
Professor Pearce says the study will provide ideal training opportunities
for the development of public health research throughout the Pacific.
This will be the first co-ordinated health research project throughout
the Pacific. Furthermore, it is being done by local researchers based
in those countries. Dr Foliaki has recruited all the researchers involved,
and will be co-ordinating the study.
Professor Pearce says asthma rates are increasing worldwide. Researchers
dont know how common it is in the Pacific, because it has never
been studied systematically in that region.
However, what we think may be happening is that asthma may be getting
more common in those countries as they get more western. If we can find
out why, then maybe we can stop this happening.