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Pacific alcohol project seeks community approach

Pacific alcohol project seeks community-based approach

A multidisciplinary research group known as the Knowledge Consortium is to take on the challenge of finding a practical, community-based approach to alcohol problems amongst New Zealand’s Pacific peoples.

The three-year programme is being funded through a partnership between the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC), the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) as part of the HRC’s Partnership Programme.

The Knowledge Consortium includes researchers and communicators based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, blending expertise in health sciences, social sciences, public relations and communication.

Principal Investigator, Dr Margaret Southwick from the Pacific Health Research Centre at Whitireia Polytechnic in Porirua says there is a reasonable body of descriptive research, but turning it into practice that can actually bring about change is the next significant step.

“So what we are trying to do here is to take that knowledge and try and identify how we can go about changing people’s practices, behaviours and understanding, and enable them to find solutions for those issues, rather than restating problems.”

Dr Southwick says research to date shows that while in general terms Pacific People drink less than the general population, when they do drink they drink excessively.

“Given what we know, approaches will be used to get them to recognise that pattern themselves and then begin to modify those patterns to reduce harm.”

After an initial research review the research group will consult with Pacific communities to inform them of the project and get them involved so they can take ownership of it.

Stage two will involve inviting people to participate in smaller groups over a period of about 18 months. Narrative will be used to get people to talk about their experiences with alcohol.

Dr Southwick says that this will help identify some common themes and reasons for unhealthy patterns of alcohol consumption.

“They will help us refine our thinking, refine our understanding of the issues, and really come to grips with this whole question in a more detailed way,” Dr Southwick says.

“Ideally this would be the group that would sustain the ongoing solution, whatever that turns about to be.”

The information from the research participants, together with the findings from the literature review, will be used to develop and evaluate interventions that are appropriate and responsive to the needs of Pacific communities.

Eventually they hope to develop a workable programme than can be handed over to the communities who have participated in the focus groups.

Project manager, Magila Annandale, from the communication and project management group Fresh, says it is important to get community buy-in and engagement, and develop their knowledge systems.

“When we work alongside communities we are helping to build individual and collective capacity. By working collaboratively communities will take greater ownership of the findings” she says.

“Our project is concerned with creating practical solutions that can be used at grassroots. The more we engage people and get them talking about their stories, the more real and relevant the outcomes will be.”

Ms Annandale says they will brand the study so that it is easily recognisable to the community.

“We are placing a heavy emphasis on communication, community engagement and access to information. This includes using multilingual researchers, mass media and having a branded website as communication tools,” she says.


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