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National Science Challenges: Pasifika stream

There are 11 National Science Challenges, each targeting a bold goal in a different area of science. Overseen by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) is privileged to serve on the reference group for A Better Start: E tipu e rea National Science Challenge Pasifika expert group. 

The objective of A Better Start is researching improved methods and tools to predict, prevent and treat obesity, and identifying and addressing learning and mental health problems in children and teenagers.

The Challenge’s research strategy is new for New Zealand, as it will target at-risk children early, engage their communities, draw together different disciplines, and take a holistic approach to obesity, learning, and mental health difficulties, which are usually treated in isolation. The Challenge is using ‘big data’ as captured by a range of government agencies to inform progress in reaching key developmental milestones in each of these areas.

Our Pasifika group was fortunate to have several Pasifka leaders present, like Matafanua Hilda Fa’asalele, Jacinta Fa’alili-Fidow, Dr Gerhard Sundborn, and Denise Kingi-Uluave, and many more. Pasifika leadership and participation is vital in ensuring that any future research funding into Pasifika health, social and wellbeing, authentically aligns to current and future needs; and more importantly, is led by Pasifika. It was reassuring and humbling to be part of this expert group, knowing they would keep Pasifika needs at the forefront of the Challenge. 

A summary of our groups thoughts on moving forward:

  • Communities and relationships = trust, authenticity and reciprocity
  • Shape big data findings to empower Pasifika families
  • Value knowledge held by families and communities
  • Understand the differences of “Pasifika” communities
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Face-to-face workshops will not continue while New Zealand is at Level 4. We will be in contact with all participants soon.