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New Approach to Mental Health of Pasifika Youth Offenders

Researcher Takes New Approach to Assessing Mental Health of Pasifika Youth Offenders

The mental health of Pasifika youth offenders is about to be uniquely examined from a Pasifika worldview, looking at associations with culture, family and spirituality, as well as links between mental health and reoffending.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) lecturer Dr Julia Ioane has been awarded a $250,000 Pacific Emerging Researcher First Grant by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC), to help close the large knowledge gap around mental health of Pasifika youth offenders.

Dr Ioane’s grant is one of 26 Pacific health research career development awards announced in the HRC’s latest funding round.

Dr Ioane says it’s widely known that youth offenders have higher rates of mental health disorders than the general youth population, but with the increasing rate of Pasifika youth offending in Aotearoa, it is arguably no longer appropriate to continue to assess and provide treatment based on Western World models.

She says it’s timely that mental health assessments and interventions begin to incorporate and embed fundamental values of Pasifika when working with young people and their families – this being the difference between her study and others in this field.

Over the past five years, an average of 10 per cent of children and young people charged in court were Pasifika.

Dr Ioane plans to recruit 100 youth offenders of Samoan and Tongan descent, to examine the prevalence and severity of mental health problems and substance use disorders amongst them.

She’ll use the Fonofale model that includes family, culture, spirituality and physical health to help guide her assessments. Her methods will also incorporate principles of talanoa methodology (story sharing by answering some open-ended questions) – a process she says is often compromised when Western methodologies are used to assess Pasifika communities.

Her research will also determine the extent to which poor mental health among Pasifika youth offenders is associated with repeat offending. Dr Ioane says this sort of research must be prioritised, because youth offending affects all New Zealanders.

“If we address what leads to these behaviours by researching the target population and drawing on their worldview to guide government, practitioners, researchers and communities, we can better understand what can improve life-course outcomes for all.”

The HRC’s manager of Pacific Research Investment, Tolotea Lanumata, says the HRC is happy to support new thinking on challenging issues. “This research contributes to advancing Pacific knowledge in this important area of youth mental health.”

Dr Ioane was previously granted a HRC Pacific postdoctoral fellowship in 2009. Lanumata says it’s heartening to see a previous recipient on her way to establishing a career as a leading Pasifika researcher in the health and wellbeing of high-risk Pasifika populations.

The HRC received 46 applications for the 2018 Pacific health research career development awards – an increase from 29 last year, demonstrating a growing interest in, and need for, health research addressing the needs of Pacific people.

See below for the full list of recipients – lay summaries will be available on the HRC website on Tuesday 31st October: Visit filter for ‘Pacific Health Research’ and ‘2018’.

2018 HRC Pacific health research career development awards

Pacific Emerging Researcher First Grant

Dr Julia Ioane, Auckland University of Technology

Assessing mental health among high-risk Pasifika youth in Aotearoa

36 months, $250,000

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Victoria University of Wellington

Towards a new penicillin for rheumatic fever

24 months, $249,391

Sir Thomas Davis Te Patu Kite Rangi Ariki Fellowship

Dr John Sluyter, University of Auckland

Evaluation of a new screening tool for atrial fibrillation in Pacific people

30 months, $286,955

Pacific Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship

Ms Victoria Woolner, Victoria University of Wellington

Pasifika medicinal plants: Elucidating the science behind the tradition

36 months, $345,156

Pacific Clinical Research Training Fellowship

Dr James Slater, University of Auckland

CHOCS and TOFU projects: Ophthalmic changes in diabetes

24 months, $172,482

Pacific Health Research PhD Scholarship

Mrs Georgina McPherson, Auckland University of Technology

Pacific women navigating colposcopy services

24 months, $49,957

Mr Troy Ruhe, University of Otago

The effectiveness of circuit based exercise in Cook Islands communities

36 months, $133,550

Mrs Veisinia Pulu-Lakai, Massey University

Co-designing a community-based intervention programme for prediabetes

36 months, $125,790

Mr Samuela Ofanoa, University of Auckland

Fractures and falls among older adults in New Zealand

36 months, $125,100

Pacific Health Research Masters Scholarship

Ms Sarah Kapeli, University of Auckland

The effect of discrimination on health outcomes for Pacific people

11 months, $28,699

Miss Latasi Koro, University of Auckland

Hearing health in Samoan and Tokelauan Populations

12 months, $31,000

Pacific Knowledge Translation Grant

Miss Siobhan Tu'akoi, University of Auckland

Supporting Cook Islands communities to access scientific evidence

6 months, $5,000

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Victoria University of Wellington

Rheumatic Fever

6 months, $5,000

Miss Fofoa Pio, University of Auckland

The health literacy of Samoan mothers and managing their children’s health

6 months, $5,000

Ms Synthia Dash, University of Auckland

Deliberate self-harm among Pacific

6 months, $5,000

Ms Afu Taufa, University of Auckland

Social impacts of heavy kava use

6 months, $5,000

Pacific Health Research Summer Studentship

Ms Louise Jansen, University of Otago

Acceptability of the treadmill six-minute walk test in Pacific peoples

3 months, $5,000

Ms Megan Haines, University of Auckland

Effects of housing quality and stability on the health of Pacific children in New Zealand

3 months, $5,000

Mr David Nair, University of Otago

Development of a 3D printed thoracoscopic oesophageal atresia simulator

3 months, $5,000

Miss Jadan Hekau, University of Auckland

The role of Pacific fathers in a contemporary setting

3 months, $5,000

Ms ‘Eseta Vaipuna, University of Otago

The home environment of Tongan children

3 months, $5,000

Ms Kotalo Leau, University of Auckland

Persistent poverty in Pasifika families

3 months, $5,000

Mr Tevita Vaipuna, University of Otago

Tongan children's nutrition – native vs New Zealand migrants

3 months, $5,000

Ms Sophia Dean, University of Otago

Tongan children's physical activity – native vs New Zealand migrants

3 months, $5,000

Miss Theresa Fitzpatrick, University of Otago

Heart samples collected by Heart Otago – the link to Pacific populations

3 months, $5,000

Ms Leina Tucker-Masters, University of Auckland

Co-design of a pilot mental wellbeing initiative for Pacific tertiary students

3 months, $5,000


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