Dr El-Shadan Tautolo
Dr El-Shadan Tautolo

15 June 2017

An unprecedented seven research projects focused on improving the health of New Zealand’s Pacific community have been awarded combined funding of more than $6.3 million in the Health Research Council of New Zealand’s latest funding round.

Five of the successful projects are led by Pacific health researchers, while the other two projects have strong Pacific representation on their research teams.

HRC Acting Chief Executive Dr Tania Pocock says this is a fantastic result for Pacific health research in New Zealand, providing support to high-quality Pacific health research in priority areas that will achieve better outcomes for Pacific people, families and communities.

“We target about 20 per cent of our funding into identifying and growing emerging research talent, and our Pacific health research funding and career development programme is the only government funding of its kind in New Zealand,” says Dr Pocock.

“This year the quality of Pacific applications we received was extremely high, which reflects our long-standing commitment to growing the capacity and capability of New Zealand’s Pacific health research workforce.”

Auckland University of Technology researchers Dr El-Shadan Tautolo and Professor Janis Paterson have each received a HRC project grant to lead different aspects of The Pacific Islands Families (PIF) study.

Dr Tautolo’s research is focused on identifying the specific cultural and acculturative factors that make some Pacific people vulnerable to mental illness and others resilient, while Dr Paterson’s project looks at hearing loss in Pacific youth.

The PIF study is following a cohort of 1398 Pacific children within their family environment over the first 13 years of the child's life.

In addition, Dr Tautolo has also received a second HRC project grant to investigate the impact of early-life and childhood events on the respiratory health of Pacific youth aged 18 to 19 years. His two project grants mark a significant milestone for Dr Tautolo whose research career has been supported by a HRC summer studentship, PhD scholarship and postdoctoral fellowship. Dr Tautolo was also appointed as a member of the HRC’s Pacific Health Research Committee at the end of last year.

Other projects funded include a study led by University of Auckland research fellow Dr Ofa Dewes that will involve measuring fructose uptake in high school students to identify those who are most at-risk of the harmful effects of sugar and to understand how this links to obesity and its consequences.

University of Otago research fellow Dr Rosalina Richards has also received a HRC Pacific project grant to explore the little-known area of sleep in Pacific children and how to best support good sleep/wake patterns within Pacific contexts for physical and emotional health.

See below for the full list of 2017 HRC Pacific project and project grant recipients (Pacific focused only) or to read lay summaries of the research projects, go to www.hrc.govt.nz/funding-opportunities/recipients and filter for ‘Researcher Initiated Proposals,’ ‘Projects’ and ‘2017’.


2017 HRC Pacific project grants

Dr Ofa Dewes, the University of Auckland
Differences in fructose uptake in Pacific adolescents
36 months, $599,987

Dr Rosalina Richards, University of Otago
Sleep and well-being among Pacific children and adolescents
32 months, $577,528

Dr Debbie Ryan, Pacific Perspectives Limited
Pacific patients’ perspectives of treatment of chronic conditions
24 months, $400,000

2017 HRC project grants with a focus on Pacific health

Professor Jacqueline Cumming, Victoria University of Wellington
Integrated services to improve the health of Pacific peoples
42 months, $1,194,152

Professor Janis Paterson, Auckland University of Technology
Pacific Islands Families Study: Impact of hearing loss on Pacific youth
36 months, $1,196,242

Dr El-Shadan Tautolo, Auckland University of Technology
Pacific Islands Families: Cultural resiliency and vulnerability in mental health
36 months, $1,189,886

Dr El-Shadan Tautolo, Auckland University of Technology
Respiratory health of Pacific youth: Risk and resilience throughout childhood
36 months, $1,183,935