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Funding for UC research into improving Pacific community health

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

University of Canterbury (UC) researcher Professor Steven Ratuva has secured research funding of more than $588,000 over three years from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) to investigate Pacific community health.

Director of the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at UC, Professor Ratuva will lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the universities of Canterbury and Otago in the Pacific Project. Funding has been awarded to explore enrichment of Pacific community health through targeted social protection strategies.

The project investigates the socio-economic and cultural drivers of poor health among the Pacific population of Aotearoa New Zealand and identifies the shortcomings of existing traditional and formal social protection strategies to address these drivers.

"Through this research we will be in a better place to advise on government policy intervention, community engagement and initiatives on health. We’ll come up with a series of recommendations containing action strategies for particular protection policies that are culturally appropriate, technically sound and socially transformative for Pacific communities," says Professor Ratuva, who is a political sociologist.

"It will provide an opportunity for Pacific communities to take charge of their own health because we will have improved understanding of both problems and solutions by identifying the social determinants of health and proposing social protection strategies to address these."

The research is solution-based, he says. It will involve intensive field investigation of people’s economic, religious, social, professional and cultural situations, attitudes and beliefs at both the individual and collective levels and how these contribute to unhealthy lifestyles.

"We will be focusing on marginalised, excluded and vulnerable groups and the aim is to enhance social empowerment, wellbeing enhancement, sustainable development, poverty reduction, social justice and progressive social transformation," says Professor Ratuva.

The project will conduct a ‘stocktake’ of existing social protection measures meant to address these and identify where they have gone wrong, he says. It will also design a Social Protection Index (SPI) database and formula that links social protection to social determinants of health for use by the communities themselves, as well as policymakers.

Based on the detailed analysis, the research will identify the best points of intervention and social protection strategies to promote community empowerment and long-term health enrichment within the Pacific communities using community-friendly strategies.

- HRC 2019 Pacific Project grant - Enrichment of community health through targeted social protection strategies, 36 months, $588,534

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