Eight million boost to improve heart health equity

Community-engaged research programmes have received significant funding to impact healthcare. Led by University of Auckland researchers, they will combat cardiovascular disease among Māori and Pacific communities.

Dr Anna Rolleston, an honorary fellow in the Department of Medicine.

Pūtahi Manawa – Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand has just released funding for six major research projects that amounts to more than $8 million over three years.

“It’s one of the biggest ever tranches of funding for equity-based research in Aotearoa New Zealand and offers the opportunity for a fresh new way to perform heart research that will champion health equity,” says Professor Julian Paton, co-director of Pūtahi Manawa.

It’s what leaders have described as a ‘business not as usual’ approach, moving away from the idea that academics and clinicians are the only experts to researching from within the worldview of the people needing equitable care and urgent action.

Pūtahi Manawa also introduces two significant leadership teams that reflect the communities which need urgent impact: the Māori leadership team, which is co-chaired by Waipapa Taumata Rau’s honorary fellow in the department of medicine Dr Anna Rolleston (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Pukenga), and senior lecturer Dr Mataroria Lyndon (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Whātua, Waikato).

The Pacific leadership team is co-chaired by the University of Otago’s Associate Dean Pacific Associate Professor Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, and Associate Professor Dr Daryl Schwenke.

“There is a Māori proverb that says: ‘Tungia te ururua, kia tutu whakaritorito te tutu o te harakeke’, which means to set the overgrown bush alight and let the new flax roots spring forth,” says Dr Rolleston.

“This is, in essence, what we are doing with Pūtahi Manawa, setting fire to the old ways and letting innovation grow.”

For example, a kaupapa Māori model is holistic in that approaches heart health from the point of view of a whole person as a part of their community and whānau, not just as their physical body or illness.

She says Mahitahi, partnerships and collaboration, are a critical kaupapa for equitable outcomes in heart health for Māori.

“We'll be instilling Te Ao Māori worldviews and leadership as a tūāpapa (foundation), elevating whānau voice within our mahi, and tuakana-teina to set a path for future generations of Māori health professionals and researchers.”

Dr Sika-Paotonu says the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing health inequities in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“It’s further emphasised the need to move towards equity-based approaches that take into account the specific needs of different communities and groups.”

Pūtahi Manawa intends to expand its methodologies beyond science based in a lab and dive into community-focused concepts, such as implementing holistic models of health that resonate with Māori and Pacific communities.

For example, a kaupapa Māori model is holistic in that approaches heart health from the point of view of a whole person as a part of their community and whānau, not just as their physical body or illness.

This understanding is included in Pūtahi Manawa workstreams and would be considered business not as usual for heart health research and clinical practice.

The mission of Pūtahi Manawa is to improve equity in heart health for Māori and Pacific peoples through research excellence and precision medicine, bringing together an inter-disciplinary team of research scientists, clinicians, educators, and communities to take action against heart health inequities.

Dr Sika-Paotonu says that for example, one of the six research teams being funded is a Pacific-led multi-disciplinary research collective, with members representing different Pacific ethnic groups, different disciplines, health sector and system areas.

"They are all committed to working together in partnership with and for Pacific communities to help address and prevent inequities in heart health and through co-designing appropriate targeted and tailored solutions for Māori and Pacific peoples.”

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death and disability in Aotearoa New Zealand.

About Pūtahi Manawa – Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand

Pūtahi Manawa is a new centre of research excellence (or CoRE), is focused on whānau and community values. It is the only heart-focused CoRE in New Zealand, led by communities who are most impacted by heart-related concerns.

It strives to tackle the inequity in life expectancy for Māori and Pacific peoples who remain disproportionately affected by heart disease.

It is also aiming to increase numbers of Māori and Pacific researchers, clinical health professionals and new and innovative approaches to workforce development in Aotearoa New Zealand through an outreach and education programme.

Championed by a diverse group of academic, clinical and community leaders who are passionate about heart health equity, it is hosted out of Waipapa Taumata Rau and includes strong collaborations with other Universities and community health organisations.

Media queries

Te Rina Triponel | Kaitohutohu Pāpāho Māori
E: te.rina.triponel@auckland.ac.nz