6 Nov 2013

Academic warns Pacific health will get worse unless communities get involved

5:50 pm on 6 November 2013

An academic is warning Pacific people in New Zealand and other Pacific nations will continue to fight a losing battle against diabetes, obesity and other diseases if communities don't get involved.

Aliitasi Su'a Tavila, of Victoria University in Wellington, says New Zealand statistics show the health of the Pacific population is at risk and she says that is set to get worse.

Dr Su'a Tavila told Amelia Langford collaboration between health professionals, policy-makers and Pacific communities is critical if things are going to change.

ALIITASI SUA TAVILA: If we really need to achieve what the government is looking at they must always involve or they must always communicate with the Pacific community in order for them to understand or to agree what the outcome will be or what is going to be included in the strategy. The Pacific people, they do have their own values and beliefs and those values and beliefs may impact on what's written on the strategy.

AMELIA LANGFORD: So the government needs to consult communities on health policy and how to tailor it to Pacific communities?

AST: Exactly. It's a collaboration with the community and communication and consultation is very important.

AL: And at the moment not enough has been done?

AST: No, I don't think so. When I did my PhD and I was doing the dissemination of my research, the majority of them say 'We never heard of those things. None of those people from the Ministry of Health told us about A, B, C'. Perhaps you go out there and tell them to come out to the community.

AL: So where to from here?

AST: I am looking at trying to go back one step because my post-doc research is to develop a very small community-based health strategy and my intention is for the Pacific community leaders to drive the strategy so they themselves can see what's happening in community health. And because they are the most influential people in the Pacific community they will also be able to consult with their own community and hopefully they will be able to then come back to the policy makers and say 'This is what we need to look at. This is how we should draw and this is how we should develop Pacific health strategy so it will work'.