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Research aims to shed light on wellbeing of Niuean people

Waikato University PhD student, Jessica Pasisi, is seeking to better understand the mental health and wellbeing of Niuean people in Aotearoa, and has just received more than $300,000 from the Health Research Council (HRC) to help fund her research.

Ms Pasisi received the Pacific Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship, worth a total of $359,179 for the next 36 months, as part of this year’s Health Research Council Career Development Awards, which help support and foster the health research workforce in New Zealand.

Her study will focus on Niuean health, with her research topic being ‘Niuean happiness: A hiapo approach to Niuean mental health and wellbeing’.

Ms Pasisi says it’s a great honour to receive the Pacific Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship.

“It’s exciting to be able to continue working with our Niuean community in Aotearoa and with Niueans back home. This award is a clear indication of the growth of Niueans in Aotearoa, and the importance of community-led development and instigation of programmes that support the improved health and wellbeing of our people,” she says.

Her proposed research aims to explore Niuean elder and youth conceptualisations of happiness through a culturally-centred research approach.

“As a Niuean, I have a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of our Niuean community. This research topic is a way for me to continue work in this space, and to collaborate with other Niueans to co-design and lead research that has clear benefits for our community now and for future generations,” she says.

“Through this research I’m seeking to improve inter-generational knowledge transfer. Qualitative and quantitative measures will be used to glean insights relevant to the broader Niuean community in Aotearoa.”

For Ms Pasisi, the research will provide a path to deepen the connection with her culture and people.

“I grew up in Melville, Hamilton, feeling quite a long way from my cultural heritage, so getting the chance to partner with Niuean people in culturally relevant ways is a great privilege and paves the way for more Niueans to enter into these spaces.”

Tolotea Lanumata, manager of Pacific research investment at HRC, says Ms Pasisi’s research will help create further understanding on the health and wellbeing of Niuean people in Aotearoa.

“This research should help us understand the benefits of identity-based interventions for holistic wellbeing in Niuean elders and youth – areas where knowledge is currently lacking in the New Zealand context,” she says.

Ms Pasisi’s study is one of 25 HRC Pacific Career Development Awards announced for a combined total of $2.9 million – an almost $1 million increase on last year, reflecting the growing talent base of up-and-coming Pacific health researchers.

Pacific Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowships help researchers gain further experience in their chosen field, which contributes to improving health outcomes for Pacific peoples.

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