Helping Pacific youth avoid diabetes is one of two projects receiving $2.3 million funding in the latest grants from a long-term conditions joint research partnership.

The Healthier Lives National Science Challenge, the Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) joined forces to establish the $7.9 million research funding pool to tackle long-term chronic health conditions.

Yesterday’s $2.3 million announcement follows the $5.7 million announced for diabetes research in February.

Massey University research fellow Dr Riz Firestone, who is of Samoan descent, received almost $1 million in health research funding to develop and put into practice a Pacifika community-based intervention programme to reduce prediabetes, the precursor to full-blown diabetes.

Dr Michael Epton, Director of the Canterbury Respiratory Research Group at Christchurch Hospital, has received just over $1 million for a 24-month study that will address New Zealand’s low referral and attendance rates for rehabilitation programmes for people with multiple long-term conditions (LTCs), such as diabetes, heart failure, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Dr Firestone’s study will establish a Pasifika prediabetes youth empowerment programme involving Pacific youth (15–24 years old) from community groups in South Waikato and Auckland. It will build on Firestone’s recent HRC-funded pilot study in which a group of Pacific youth was taught how to plan and champion community-based interventions to counteract the key public health issues of obesity.

Epson says current approaches to rehabilitation for people with multiple LTCs focus too much on the biological aspects of their diseases and don’t include all the aspects of wellbeing that are important for improving health.

“Rather than developing new disease-specific interventions, we’ll work together with communities to develop and try initiatives that help people with multiple LTCs access community support, increase their sense of connectedness within their community, improve physical activity, and thus live lives they feel are fulfilling and worthwhile,” he said.

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