Researchers receive Pacific Health Research Career Development Awards

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Two researchers from Massey’s Research Centre for Hauora and Health have been awarded Pacific Health Research Career Development Awards to fund their research projects about Tokealauan youth.

Hana Tuisano Ilai Manu

Dr Hana Tuisano and Ilai Manu

Dr Hana Tuisano, who is also a registered nurse, received a Pacific Health Postdoctoral Fellowship and Ilai Elekana Manu a PhD Scholarship as part of the 2023 Health Research Council Career Development Awards.

Dr Tuisano will receive $465,088 to fund a four-year project looking at the cultural intelligence and cultural safety for Tokelauan young people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ilai will receive $133,555 to complete his Doctor of Philosophy which will examine the health benefits of Fagatua indigenous Tokelau wrestling for Tokelauan youth.

“I feel very fortunate and grateful to be a recipient of this scholarship,” Ilai says.

“With the voices of Tokelau at the forefront of this PhD, this funding will support the expansion of research which will benefit the Tokelauan diaspora.”

With a fast-growing Tokelauan diaspora in Aotearoa, it is important that robust research for improving the health and wellbeing of Tokelauan youth continues to be developed.

“I hope it can be achieved by engaging with our elders, Tokelau communities, together with our young people, as well as looking to our past and reviving cultural activities like Fagatua, the indigenous wrestling of Tokelau as a vehicle to strengthen cultural identity.”

Ilai extends his thanks to his academic supervisors, Tokelau community reference and his wife and family for their support.

The Health Research Council Career Development Awards help launch research careers through a wide range of master’s and PhD scholarships and help develop research leaders through advanced postdoctoral fellowships. They also support frontline clinicians to undertake research that will improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders while addressing critical gaps in the research workforce.

Cultural Intelligence and Cultural Safety for Tokelau Young People in Aotearoa – Dr Hana Tuisano, Postdoctoral Fellowship for four years

Aotearoa is home to the largest Tokelau population in the world. In the five generations of Tokelauans, the prospect of ever living in Tokelau is very small. They will grow up, be educated, learn their culture and receive their healthcare all in Aotearoa. This research will focus on some challenges raised in Dr Tuisano’s PhD. First, there are significant gaps in services for young people. Second, young people wish to be involved in the development of such services as central players and key informers. Third, while cultural competence can provide the framework for developing responsive health services, much of the content for Tokelau (youth) is absent from current approaches. This research will work responsively with both Tokelau youth and clinicians to identify what cultural quality of services should look like and how development should proceed.

Health Benefits of Fagatua Indigenous Tokelau Wrestling for Tokelauan Youth - Mr Ilai Elekanu Manu, PhD Scholarship for three years

The main aim of Ilai’s study is to explore the health and wellbeing benefits of Fagatua, the indigenous wrestling of Tokelau for Tokelauan youth. Tokelau peoples born in Aotearoa account for almost 80 per cent of the Aotearoa Tokelau population, with 65 per cent identifying as multi-ethnic. Studies show high rates of mental distress, mental illness and low self-esteem amongst multi-ethnic Pacific. The mental health status of Tokelau’s youth in Tokelau is also a major concern with studies showing high suicide rates amongst Tokelau youth. Pacific peoples recognise that having strong identities are important for their mental wellbeing. Traditionally, Fagatua was an integral component of Tokelau culture. This research will see a resurgence in this lost cultural activity and reclaim part of Tokelau culture and identity. This research will result in a ‘cultural enhancement’ programme with a focus on Tokelauan youth diaspora in Aotearoa as well as the Tokelau youth living in Tokelau.

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