Dr Palatasa Havea
Dr Palatasa Havea

21 December 2016

Dr Palatasa Havea has been confirmed as the new chair of the HRC Pacific Health Research Committee.

Palatasa has a PhD in food technology from Massey University and is a senior research scientist at Fonterra in Palmerston North. He has invented several technologies at Fonterra that have resulted in the commercialisation of nutritional dairy products (10 patents) aimed at addressing some of the major nutritional and health issues in many parts of the world.

Palatasa, who is of Tongan descent, has been a member of the HRC Pacific Health Research Committee since December 2012. He has also been very active in the New Zealand Pasifika community, serving on a range of boards, committees, and reference groups. He recently stepped down from the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Advisory Council, where he served for 13 years and chaired for the past three years.

Palatasa takes over the HRC Pacific committee chair role from Dr Mele Taumoepeau. Mele, a senior lecturer at the University of Otago's Psychology Department, has been a HRC Pacific Health Research Committee member since 2000 and served as its chair from 2014 to 2016. She has provided outstanding leadership, expertise and knowledge and will be greatly missed.

The HRC Pacific Health Research Committee also welcomes Dr Ofa Dewes to its team. Ofa is an affiliate investigator of the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery and a research fellow at the School of Nursing, University of Auckland. Her research interests include Pacific ethnic-specific studies across the lifespan, especially in health equity, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and ageing.

Ofa was recently awarded a two-year project grant from the National Science Challenge for 'Ageing Well'. Here she will lead a research team investigating older Pacific people's experiences in palliative care, and the challenges faced by their aiga (family) who carry out the bulk of their care. She will also be a co-researcher on another 'Ageing Well' study led by Auckland University of Technology to understand what factors older Pacific people consider important for their wellbeing.

Ofa is Fiji-born of Rotuman, Tongan, and Tuvaluan ethnicity, with affiliation to Ngati Porou.