A heart for Pacific health

posted: 8:00 pm - 28th June 2020
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(Picture caption: The new Chief Advisor Pacific for the New Zealand Heart Foundation Dr Collin Tukuitonga.) 

With heart disease one of the most common causes of death and disease among Pacific adults, the new Chief Advisor Pacific for the New Zealand Heart Foundation (NZHF) Dr Collin Tukuitonga is looking forward to trying to reduce the harm heart disease causes.  

Working with the New Zealand Heart Foundation is not new for Collin, who helped establish Pacific Heartbeat – the Pacific programme at NZHF which started over 30 years ago.

Collin, who hails from Niue, has had an illustrious career to date, serving as Pacific Community (SPC) Director-General; Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs; Associate Professor of Public Health and Head of Pacific and International Health at the University of Auckland; Director of Public Health, New Zealand Ministry of Health; and Head of Surveillance and Prevention of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases at the World Health Organization (WHO), Switzerland.

He has also served in various leadership and management roles, and as a Commissioner for the WHO global Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.

Since leaving SPC last year, Collin has focused on his role as Associate Dean Pacific at the University of Auckland’s Health and Medical Sciences faculty. 

“I will remain as the Associate Dean - I am keen to help young people to study medicine, nursing, pharmacy, audiology and optometry.” 

He adds there are strong parallels between the work of NZHF and his role at the University of Auckland. 

Additionally, he will be informally helping his former colleagues at SPC where he is needed, including Niue. 

“Even though, I am based in New Zealand, I am still a keen advocate for the region.” 

Life is never dull for Collin, who says he is motivated to stay busy and to do the best he can at whatever he is doing, every time. 

“I was influenced by my family to work hard, especially my grandfather. 

“If you are lazy in Niue, you will have no food - I set high standards for myself and I like to do what I can to help others.” 

Collin has taken up his new appointment this month, with the Covid-19 lockdown still fresh in his mind. 

“Although locked down at home, I kept working with my colleagues to share information and help Pacific communities – I really hope we take away lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic, and use them to prevent others,” he adds.