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New Asian And Migrant Health Research Centre

13 August 2004

New Asian And Migrant Health Research Centre Established At AUT

Auckland University of Technology has established a new centre at its AUT North Shore University Campus to undertake research to advance understanding of Asian and migrant health. It is part of the University’s National Institute for Public Health and Mental Health Research.

According to Centre Director, Professor Max Abbott, “The Centre will conduct research that contributes to the health and wellbeing of New Zealand’s Asian and recent migrant populations. It will bring together academics, health practitioners and community leaders to enhance the focus and relevance of research in this important area.”

“One in five New Zealanders and one in four Aucklanders are migrants”, said Professor Abbott. “While recent migrant populations are generally healthy relative to locals, they have specific health problems and include some high risk groups. They also may not get access to health services when needed. We want to identify and understand these problems and barriers to health care so they can be remedied. We also want to know more about protective factors and resiliency – why so many people do well despite adversity.”

Professor Abbott said research in this area is underdeveloped, in large part because Asian and migrant health is not a New Zealand Health Strategy priority. He says it requires higher priority if health providers in Auckland and other parts of the country with large migrant communities are to enhance the health of their populations.

AUT staff and Chinese health professionals have recently completed research on the mental health of older Chinese migrants. Although none of the 162 people interviewed who had been resident less than 12 months were depressed, a quarter of the total sample was. Professor Abbott said this suggests post-migration experiences play a major part in triggering mental health problems. The study further found lack of social support, low New Zealand cultural orientation and difficulties accessing health services were major factors associated with depression. According to Professor Abbott these are factors that can be addressed by health and social service organisations and Chinese communities.

Earlier research by Professor Abbott and his colleagues found that while most recent Chinese migrants report a positive adjustment to life in New Zealand and good mental health, some groups are at very high risk. These include mothers with absent husbands and adolescents with an absent parent or parents. Unemployment and underemployment were also risk factors, but only during the first two years of life in New Zealand.

Current AUT Asian/migrant research includes:

a longitudinal study of the health and development of approximately 1,400 Pacific Island children (presently aged 4) and their families (Contact: Associate Professor Janis Patterson) a study examining physical activity and health among older Indian and Chinese populations in New Zealand, India and China (Contact: Professor Gregory Kolt) a survey of the adaptation, health and wellbeing of Chinese university students (Contact: Professor Max Abbott or Vivian Cheung).

Dr Maria Bellringer, a senior research fellow, coordinates Centre activities. AUT is planning to appoint another senior academic at associate professor or research fellow level to contribute to the leadership of the Centre’s activities. A number of fees scholarships are available for suitably qualified graduates and health professionals to undertake PhD studies within the Centre.


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