Pacific diabetes study leads to $125k grant

PhD student Gavin Faeamani will develop a diabestes prevention programme specifically for Pacific peoples.

A Massey University student has been awarded a $125,790 Pacific Health Research PhD Scholarship from the Health Research Council to investigate reducing diabetes and cardio-vascular disease rates among Pacific communities.

Gavin Faeamani, a research coordinator with The Fono’s Pasifika Pre-Diabetes Youth Empowerment Programme, will use the grant to develop a culturally-relevant diabetes prevention programme for Pacific peoples. The project will be the basis for his PhD thesis, which he plans to start next year. 

“I am very grateful to have received this award,” he says. “It will make a huge difference financially as it will cover tuition fees, research costs and provide a stipend while I do my PhD.”

Prevention programme will be a New Zealand first

Mr Faeamani says his project is unique because it will be the first time an established diabetes prevention programme will be adapted in New Zealand specifically for Pacific communities.

“Pacific people in New Zealand have the highest rates of diabetes and cardio-vascular disease and that increases their risk of cardio-vascular disease mortality, compared to the rest of the population,” he says.

“Despite improved risk screening and treatment, there have been no significant improvements for Pacific peoples, especially for adult males. Hence, identifying culturally-relevant approaches to reduce diabetes and cardio-vascular disease rates among Pacific peoples is critical.”

He says the project will measure the effectiveness of a culturally-relevant lifestyle programme on metabolic risk factors.  

“It will provide important, evidence-based knowledge in reducing diabetes and cardio-vascular disease risk, particularly in improving our understanding of reducing health equities for Pacific communities. 

“It will also contribute to understanding Pacific metabolic health at an international level through our international sister project in the United States.”

Looking to the future

Mr Faeamani says he is excited to be taking the next step in developing his research capacity.

“This scholarship provides an excellent opportunity for me to develop myself as a Pacific public health researcher. With the success of this research, I also hope to improve my researcher status so I can apply for further funding to scale-up this intervention programme.”

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