Nearly $1.7 million will be awarded to more than 220 Pacific people who have chosen to study a health related qualification in 2012.

Eighty-eight per cent of funding ($1.5 million) will be awarded to 172 successful Pacific health workforce award recipients with $200,000 used for 50 Pacific mental health and addiction scholarships.

Both the awards and scholarships cover 100 per cent of course fees for health-related study including medicine, nursing, oral health, and midwifery, mental health and/or addiction.

Since 2009, the Ministry of Health and Health Workforce New Zealand’s Pacific health scholarships and workforce awards have been managed by Le Va, the Pacific health workforce development and national coordination service within Te Pou. Te Pou is the national centre for mental health, addiction and disability workforce development.

Matua Raki, the national workforce development centre, is also involved with the awards.

The number of Pacific applicants applying each year for either a scholarship or health workforce award has increased significantly over the last four years. In total nearly 775 scholarships and awards have been awarded to Pacific students seeking health-related qualifications. The workforce awards alone have grown by almost 500 per cent, rising from 34 awards in 2006 to 172 this year.

Both programmes are funded by the Ministry of Health and Health Workforce New Zealand and reflect the government health priorities for Pacific people. They are a key strategy in addressing workforce shortages in areas like medicine, oral health, allied health, midwifery, psychology, and addictions.

Dr Monique Faleafa, national manager of Le Va said it was encouraging to see a high calibre of Pacific applicants coming through, in particular Pacific applicants with great potential who are facing at least three years of study.

“We’ve always believed that if we have the right people, with the right skills, working in the right place at the right time, we will undoubtedly get the right services delivered, and most importantly achieve the right outcomes for our Pacific families,” she said.

“The scholarship and awards help connect students who may not otherwise have had the chance to join a critical health profession, with the right people in tertiary institutions, specific profession, and in our Pacific communities. That is hugely important.”

The mental health and addiction scholarships will be presented at the GPS 2012 – Growing Pacific Solutions for our families conference with begins today. It is the first ever conference aimed specifically at addressing mental health, addiction and disability issues within New Zealand’s Pacific community.