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Pasifika palliative care research awarded grant

Dr Sunia Foliaki.

Dr Sunia Foliaki from Massey’s College of Health, has been awarded $300,000 from the Health Research Council to look into the palliative health care of Pacific people in New Zealand.

The grant comes from the HRC Sir Thomas Davis Te Patu Kite Rangi Ariki health research fellowship, which will fund the study for two years.

Pacific meets West in Advancing Palliative Care for Pacific populations will assess the use of palliative care services among Pacific populations, and explore the perspectives, challenges and experiences of palliative care patients, their family and hospice service providers in Auckland and Wellington.

Dr Foliaki, who works at the University’s Centre for Public Health Research, says while many New Zealanders receive excellent palliative care, it is clear the government, which has ordered a Ministry of Health review, isn’t confident everyone is getting the level and quality of care needed.

“The Pacific population in New Zealand has disproportionately high morbidity and mortality rates from chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes and respiratory illnesses. They in turn significantly affect quality of life with high health costs which can be improved and relieved through palliative care.”

He says at no other time are cultural identity, practices, beliefs and values more important than when someone’s health is threatened or they are approaching end of life.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity. This is a very important grant and an opportunity for further communication, education and understanding about the needs of the ill, terminally ill and their families through the cultural lens of Pacific groups. More importantly, palliative care complements therapies that aim to cure or control disease processes throughout an illness and not just at the end of life.”

Centre for Public Health Research director Professor Jeroen Douwes says he is extremely pleased Dr Foliaki was awarded the fellowship. “Sunia is a very talented Pacific health researcher and a highly deserving recipient. His work will contribute to improved health in Pacific people in New Zealand. It is urgently needed given the significant health inequalities Pacific people face.”

The issue was the subject of a one-day health forum in Wellington last month attended by fellow health researchers, the Pasifika community and diplomatic representatives.

“This is the second time a researcher from our Centre has won the prestigious award since it was established two years ago. This is extraordinary and allows us to expand on an already highly successful Pacific health research programme at the Centre”, Professor Douwes says.

The findings from the study will help inform policies and develop evidence-based guidelines to improve palliative health care for Pacific people, other minority populations and the general population in New Zealand.

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