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Pacific cultures

Building blocks for a socially-involved and co-created approach to brain health among older Pacific adults

Research Team

  • Dr Ofa Dewes
  • Dr Glenn Doherty
  • Assoc Prof Barry Milne
  • Zanetta Toomata
  • Nicola Turner
  • Rev Ifalame Teisi
  • Rev Suamalie Naisali
  • Rev Elder Tui Sopoaga
  • Dr Joy Tlapi
  • Davina Solomon
  • Mikaela Shannon
  • Noelette Matthews

Pacific cultures: Building blocks for a socially-involved and co-created approach to brain health among older adults aims to investigate how Pacific older adults engage with and participate in wellbeing service provision and social contexts, and how such participation impacts their wellbeing and later life.

Ageing Well has partnered with the Tongan Health Society, an established Auckland-based integrated primary health care service in the community. Led by Dr Ofa Dewes, Director of its newly incorporated Langimalie Research Centre, the research is designed to help understand the factors that impact the wellness and wellbeing of Pacific older adults, and assess the strengths that allow them to thrive.

This study will produce concrete data to help provide focused services for the Pacific Community and add to science’s understanding about the way Pacific people understand the brain.

About the study

Brain disorders have debilitating effects on one of our most vulnerable population groups – older adults. Pacific older adults, specifically, continue to live and work in environments that may, exponentially, create more harm than protect or maintain brain health. Many Pacific older adults continue to experience high levels of unmet needs and support, and poor access to ethnic-specific, people-centred, and culturally-appropriate services and resources across the entire social, health, and economic spectrum.

For most Pacific Peoples, brain health and the diagnosis of various common brain disorders such as dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, mental health, brain injury, and anxiety issues, are largely based on Western concepts not easily transferred into the holistic perspectives of wellness and wellbeing that are typical in a Pacific world view.

Brain health is a koloa (treasure) to nurture, develop and maintain throughout the life-course. Knowing what brain health support services would be appropriate for development and implementation into practice and policy, and knowing what cultural approaches would be appropriate for diverse Pacific communities, is important. The study will explore this in a culturally-centred, co-created, formative, and multi-disciplinary mixed-methods approach.

This project was developed in direct response to the Ageing Well mission of enabling positive ageing in an equitable manner. Additionally, it builds on the ‘care, connection, and continuity’ research platform established in Dr Dewes’ previous studies with Ageing Well Challenge, to address the question:
How can Pacific cultural building blocks be developed and applied for a socially-involved and co-created approach to wellness and wellbeing among Pacific adults aged 65 years and over?

The research is ongoing.

{Image by Adli Wahid on Unsplash}