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Pacific health issues under spotlight

Pacific health issues under spotlight

March 20 2012

Multiple agencies will meet in Auckland in early April for the first ever conference aimed specifically at addressing mental health, addiction and disability issues within New Zealand’s Pacific community.

GPS 2012 - Growing Pacific Solutions for our families will be held on April 3 and 4 at Waipuna Hotel in Auckland. It has been organised by Le Va, Pasifika within Te Pou – the national centre for mental health, addiction and disability workforce development.

An international line-up of speakers has been confirmed and includes keynote speakers Associate Professor Dr Joseph Betancourt (Harvard Medical School) and Associate Professor Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa (University of Auckland).

Dr Betancourt directs the Disparities Solutions Centre which works with healthcare organisations to improve quality of care, address racial and ethnic disparities, and achieve equity. He is the Director of Mutilcultural Education for Massachusetts General Hospital and is an expert in cross-cultural care and communication.

Associate Professor Salesa was New Zealand’s first Pacific Island Rhodes Scholar and has authored a number of works on the history of the Pacific and more. He has recently been appointed Associate Professor of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.

Local guest speakers include founding member of the Pasifika Medical Association, Dr Mary English, New Zealand’s youngest ever orthopaedic surgeon Dr Jeremy Stanley and chief executive of Family Life Education Pasefika William Pua.

Minister for Disability Issues and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia will address the conference on Tuesday April 3 (at 10.30am). Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and Minister of Education Hekia Parata will also attend and will be first speaker on the second day (8.55am).

National manager for Le Va, Dr Monique Faleafa said while each sector has unique needs, there were also common issues across the sectors. To date there have been scarce opportunities for those sectors to focus on an integrated approach and collective solutions, she said.

“We want a fono that will validate Pacific solutions for Pacific families.”

Dr Faleafa’s message is echoed by fellow members of the conference steering committee. Disability sector representative Saveatama Amerika Wilson said the conference would be the first time representatives from different sectors gathered under one roof.
“As a sector we are all struggling but if we tear down the silos and look at how to work collaboratively we will find better solutions," he said.

Registrations for the conference close on April 2 2012. For more information and to register online, go to


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