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Pacific health researchers learn from NZ

Monday 30 May 2005

Pacific health researchers learn from NZ

Representatives from ten Pacific Island nations and New Zealand will gather in Auckland today, for a health research training course designed to improve research capacity and capability in the Pacific.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the New Zealand Ministry of Health have joined forces with the Health Research Council of New Zealand to produce the two-week long course, which will address Pacific health research priorities. The workshop has also received support from NZAID.

The course will focus on strengths in Pacific health research developed in New Zealand, such as non-communicable diseases, mental health, injury, nutrition and health promotion, and health services and determinants of health research.

HRC Programme holder Associate Professor Tony Blakely of the Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences will present at the course on 'Inequalities in health in New Zealand'. Pacific people share an unequal burden of disease and ill-health in this country compared to non-Pacific people.

Associate Professor Blakely is currently investigating, for example, why there are survival differences in colon cancer by ethnicity, and whether unequal treatment by health service providers contributes to the inequalities in health reflected in negative statistics for Pacific peoples.

Professor Robert Scragg and David Schaaf of the University of Auckland will present on the Obesity Prevention in Pacific Communities (OPIC) study, which aims to understand the role obesity plays in cardiovascular disease, and to find ways of preventing and reducing obesity in school aged children.

Over 30% of New Zealand children are overweight or obese, with childhood obesity rates highest amongst Pacific children. Obesity is also the major risk factor for diabetes, which is more likely to affect to Maori and Pacific peoples than Pakeha New Zealanders.

The OPIC study, which was funded as part of an international research initiative between the Wellcome Trust in the UK, the HRC and its Australian sister body NH&MRC, showed that obesity levels are increasing in New Zealand; and that watching television, drinking sugary drinks and not eating breakfast are the main reasons for childhood obesity.

This and other leading Pacific health research will be showcased at the training course as an example of intervention-based research that will improve the health status of Pacific peoples. It is hoped that through demonstrating effective research methods and passing on this knowledge to researchers from other Pacific nations, research capacity and capability in the Pacific can be improved to produce better health outcomes.

HRC Chief Executive Dr Bruce Scoggins says he is delighted that New Zealand can help out other nations in the Pacific so that we might improve human health on an international level. "Opportunities exist for developed countries like New Zealand to assist those countries trying to build their capability to conduct quality health research," says Dr Scoggins.

"Bringing together participants from ten nations to discuss Pacific health research methods is also an important step in fostering future research collaborations in the Pacific."

An official welcoming and keynote speech by Hon Luamanuvao Winne Laban will open the event on Monday 30 May at 10.30am. The course runs for eight days from Monday 30 May until 8 June at the Waipuna Hotel, and is followed by the Pacific Health Research Fono on 9 and 10 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland.


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