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Pacific researcher awarded $600k to explore mental health of Pacific mothers and fathers

The Health Research Council has awarded Dr Seini Taufa of Moana Research – an independent research organisation owned by six Pacific researchers – a $600k Pacific Project Grant to explore the response of the health system to the mental health needs of Pacific mothers and fathers. Dr Taufa, Principal Investigator and Research Lead for Moana Research, draws on the team’s previous experiences and the gaps in research for Pacific maternal and paternal health.

“While working at TAHA [Well Pacific Mother and Infant service] and through our engagement with Pacific mothers, we noted that mental wellbeing often goes unchecked. This project will give voice to carers of infants, to better understand the risk factors of perinatal depression and the support systems that should be in place to build mental wellbeing for both mother, father, baby and the wider family”.

The Growing up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) Longitudinal study reported 23% of Pacific women experienced symptoms of perinatal depression symptoms, compared with approximately 14% of all other women combined and 8% of European women.  Pacific women who had experienced unfair treatment by a health professional in their lifetime were also 66% more likely to suffer from postnatal depression, compared to women who did not report these experiences.  The funded project will enable further exploration of the experiences of women and fathers through the health system, including those who do not seek support.

The Moana Research team: L-R: Mary Roberts, Dudley Gentles, Dr Teuila Percival, Jacinta Fa’alili-Fidow, Dr Seini Taufa and Amio Ikihele. Photo / Moana Research

As the first wholly Pacific owned organisation to be fully funded through an HRC Pacific project grant, Dr Teuila Percival, senior researcher and co-owner of Moana Research, is pleased with the recognition of Pacific research and knowledge systems.

“Moana Research is committed to transformative change, developing research and solutions with our community utilising Pacific narratives, strengths and models. While there is a temptation to “pathologise” mental wellbeing, our research aims to explore responses that are much more aligned with our families’ experiences and therefore has policy implications that challenge the status quo.”

Dr Taufa has specialized in teen pregnancy research, gambling, unconscious bias and anti-racism and indigenous Pacific knowledge systems. She looks forward to applying her mix of quantitative and qualitative research skills and her Tongan cultural and social upbringing to her leadership of the project.

“As a daughter of the moana (Pacific) there are lived experiences and skills that shape the way we view the world, that cannot be taught in a classroom. We bring cultural and social knowledge; we also bring our Pacific values that are fundamental if research is to be meaningful for our Pacific families.”

Moana Research is a consultancy company based at the Nga Hau Māngere Birthing Centre, providing quality research, workforce development and advocacy services with a focus on Pacific children, families and the systems that impact on them.

Source: Moana Research

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