9 Apr 2019

New project targets woeful Pacific health stats in NZ

4:44 pm on 9 April 2019

Scientists in New Zealand are hoping a new project to develop the use of cutting edge genetic research will improve woeful health problems in the country's Pacific people.

DNA sample being pipetted into petri dish with DNA gel in background

Photo: 123RF

Hospitalisation rates for Pacific people are about double that of the general population. Pasifika have twice the rate of diabetes and are eight times more likely to be admitted to hospital for rheumatic fever.

The Maurice Wilkins Centre is a grouping of 500 scientists and clinicians and it's teaming up with a Pacific health provider in Cannons Creek, north of Wellington - Pacific Health Plus - to take the research to the next level.

The centre's deputy director Peter Shepherd said it was a ground-breaking project in treating diseases like diabetes.

"It'll make faster progress, it'll result in the findings being implemented clinically much quicker and it'll have a lot of other benefits of empowering those communities to be part of their own future and decision making around their health," Professor Shepherd said.

"Most drugs have been tested on European people in America and this gives us the opportunity to really show what works for Maori and Pacific people."

The initiative, launched on Friday, gives researchers the chance to work directly with their communities, get their input and feedback about the research and future directions, he said.

"It's very important with our research that we do it with the communities involved and not just from our ivory towers in the university," Professor Shepherd said.

"The early indications are that genetic factors do contribute to the risk of getting diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure and what we want to do is to find how we can link that information to the right medicine or the right treatment, or the right dietary intervention so that we can give people just the right treatment for them based on their genetic profile."