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Otago University partners with Pacific Health Plus

Otago University partners with Pacific Health Plus in Porirua on community-driven research project by student interns

Over the next ten weeks four medical and health students from Otago University will work at Pacific Health Plus, a primary healthcare service, in Cannons Creek, Porirua, on a research project to better understand patients, their families and the community.

Of the 2910 people enrolled at Pacific Health Plus, 93% are high needs patients with acute, recurring problems, often related to heart and renal disease. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is considerably higher in Porirua (8%) than in other areas in the Wellington Region (4% in Kāpiti, 5% in Wellington, and 6% in Lower Hutt) - and is worst in Cannons Creek.

The project, co-funded by John Fiso, Chairman of Fiso Group and Pacific Health Plus, and Otago University, will help build a meaningful picture of the patient community in Cannons Creek, beyond what the existing clinical data is providing, to improve the response to these significant patient needs.

Dr Rosemary Hall, diabetes physician and senior lecturer at Otago University, will oversee the students with Professor Jeremy Krebs.

“This is an opportunity for the students to explore and understand inequities in our health system and wider determinants on health,” says Dr Rosemary Hall. “It will give them insight into how healthcare works in some parts of New Zealand they may not be familiar with, and hopefully this experience will empower them to make positive changes in the future.”

“We all know the shocking statistics which reveal huge inequity in our health system, but we need to better understand why, and how this can be changed,” says John Fiso, chairman of Fiso Group and Pacific Health Plus. “And we need to understand this from the community.”

The students will be working closely with Fred Ama and Siaosi Mafi, who are established in the community and run exercise, healthy eating and youth programmes from Pacific Health Plus. Together they will spend time with Pacific Health Plus patients and will talk to them about a variety of issues to try and build a picture of that person and their family, and what may be the cause of health problems.

“It is clear that responding to data and charts is not working for the families of Cannons Creek,” said Mr Fiso. “We need to find out why. We can do this by interacting with them, by understanding their worries and needs, who else is in the family, and what is happening in that family - it is not just about clinical data, numbers and spreadsheets - it’s about building a holistic picture to then find a holistic solution.”

“People may look at Pacific Health Plus and think, wow, a health service for the highest needs between a burnt out pub and a stickered building - but inside are real people with real families who are tired of waiting for better outcomes.”

“At Pacific Health Plus we are creating our own solutions, we will do what we can in our own patch for our own community and we are really pleased that Rosemary and Jeremy at Otago University acknowledge this and are able to help us,” said Mr Fiso.

Lee Pearce has just joined Fiso Group to assist with overseeing Pacific Health Plus. (Further information on Lee is in the notes below.) Lee has a long history in the health sector and is focused on increasing the efficiency and quality of service at Pacific Health Plus, on preventative solutions for patients, on building capacity in the workforce, and improving systems and data capture.

“I am hoping this experience for the students will ignite a passion for Pacific health issues,” said Ms Pearce. “We desperately need medical and health professionals to really understand the patient base, the patient and their family life journey and the complexities that exist within. Health is not ‘one size fits all’.”


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