Heart Foundation’s inaugural Pacific Research Fellow focused on equity

Inaugural Pacific Research Fellow aims to enhance equity in discharge planning.

Dr Sandra Hanchard

Dr Sandra Hanchard, Research Fellow at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, has been awarded the Inaugural Joint Heart Foundation - Pūtahi Manawa Pacific Research Fellowship.

Of Tongan heritage, Dr Hanchard says she is motivated by lived experience of heart disease in her immediate and extended whānau, and that having recently returned to Aotearoa with her family after a decade living in Southeast Asia, is keen to contribute to Pacific health and wellbeing.

"I’m incredibly honoured to be the recipient of this fellowship and grateful for the support of the Heart Foundation and Pūtahi Manawa. I'm also excited that the fellowship will serve as a springboard for me to spread messages of getting your heart checked early, as Pacific people are affected by heart disease at a younger age.”

Dr Hanchard works as a Research Fellow at Manawataki Fatu Fatu (Māori and Pacific hearts in unison) for Achieving Cardiovascular Care for Equity Studies (ACCESS), a research programme joint-funded by the Heart Foundation and Healthier Lives National Science Challenge and hosted by the University of Auckland.

Her project, 'Equity-focused discharge planning for heart failure', aims to understand what equity looks like for discharge planning, and how some of the disparities in outcomes for Māori and Pacific people develop.

Dr Hanchard says discharge planning is a crucial phase in the management of heart failure patients’ transition from hospital to long-term care in the community.

"In our research, clinicians and patients have told us there are opportunities to improve current practices in discharge planning. I want to understand how those improvements can address the higher hospitalisation, re-admission and mortality rates for Māori and Pacific people compared to non-Māori and non-Pacific people.”

Dr Hanchard says her vision for the project is for Māori and Pacific people with heart failure to live well and enjoy a higher quality of life. The three key aspects will involve empowering patients and whānau to be partners in care by embedding their communication wishes in the system; applying consistent evidence-based heart failure management pathways and enhancing transfer of care between hospital, primary and community providers.

“This is a timely proposal during the current restructuring of the healthcare system as we seek consistent and coordinated heart health care that is responsive to the needs of priority communities,” she says.

Heart Foundation medical director Dr Gerry Devlin says it is extremely pleasing to be able to support Sandra’s research with the award of this Pacific Research Fellowship.

“Outcomes for people with heart attacks and other heart conditions have improved dramatically due to research. New and better treatments are resulting in longer and healthier lives for thousands of New Zealanders, but we continue to see differences across society. Sandra’s work to better understand discharge planning will provide valuable knowledge as we seek to address the equity gaps that exist.”

Coming together to support equity-focused research and researchers is an area Pūtahi Manawa board chair Kent Gardner sees as critical for this country.

“Pūtahi Manawa, the Heathy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence, is delighted to be able to support an early career heart research fellow who will improve health equity. We are excited to be uniting with the Heart Foundation in our joint goal of improving heart health across Aotearoa New Zealand and look forward to future collaborations.”

Media queries

Emmaline Pickering-Martin | Media adviser, Pacific
M: 027 282 4654
E: emmaline.pickering-martin@auckland.ac.nz