Non-communicable diseases such as cancer, obesity and diabetes are conditions that plague every culture and community, but it is how to prevent these that one Massey University academic is hoping to uncover.
Dr Ridvan Firestone and her research team have been successful in the latest round of funding for the National Science Challenge for Healthier Lives grant.
With the help of funding, they will work towards creating a diabetes prevention programme for Pacific communities.
Dr Firestone said the idea for the project came about when a forum was held earlier this year where invited community members, stakeholders, primary health organisations and district health boards came together to talk about what the next important thing was from a healthier lives point of view, to enable better health for Pacific peoples.
“The fono (meeting) discussed what health issues were important to them and the idea of co-design; working with Pacific peoples and families centered around diabetes prevention because Healthier Lives focuses on several non-communicable diseases.”
She says the National Science Challenge has two themes and the current theme is based on culturally centred approaches of health interventions for Māori and Pacific peoples.
“There really hasn’t been any focus on diabetes prevention so this is a unique opportunity to be able to focus on diabetes prevention from a culturally-centred viewpoint, and this is important because people's values and practices typically centred around family and their wider community.”
The project will build on a previous Healthier Lives Challenge project which focused on a pre-diabetes empowerment programme for Pacific youth.
It will move away from an individual viewpoint and look at what works for a family as the key nucleus of the intervention.
Dr Firestone says they now feel they have enough capacity to drive a more culturally centred co-design approach, as this is an important part of the research that will focus on how families and communities support family members with diabetes.
The research team will work with a primary health organisations in Auckland and Tokoroa.
The research will begin by looking at the previously developed empowerment programme and then begin working with a group of Pacific families to undertake the programme to develop knowledge and skills around health, public health, diabetes, importance of diabetes prevention.
From there they will start co-designing a diabetes prevention programme will look like from a family perspective.
“What that looks like, we don’t know but that’s the beauty of co-design, is we will be able to better understand what's going to be relevant and important for Pacific families. It’s also a unique way to demystify traditional views of diabetes and what that means.”
She says what they hope will come out of the programme is whether a co-design with Pacific families is going to be effective and how they can utilise the methods of co-design in other spaces, such as health services, marae, communities or in a church context.
“Part of learning this process is going to be whether this co-design approach is something that can be replicated in different context and with different health issues so we’re looking at the big picture approach.”