Research explores mental health of Pacific parents

posted: 3:00 pm - 30th June 2020
four col Seini

(Picture caption: Dr Seini Taufa of Moana Research.) 

The response of the health system to the mental health needs of Pacific parents will be explored thanks to a Health Research Council (HRC) grant.

Worth $600,000, the Pacific Project Grant was awarded to Dr Seini Taufa of Moana Research, an independent research organisation owned by six Pacific researchers.

Principal Investigator and Research Lead for Moana Research Seini says while working at TAHA and through our engagement with Pacific mothers, her team noted mental wellbeing often goes unchecked.

“This project will give voice to carers of infants, to better understand the risk factors of perinatal depression and the support systems that should be in place to build mental wellbeing for both mother, father, baby and the wider family,” Seini says.

The Growing up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) Longitudinal study reported 23 percent of Pacific women experienced symptoms of perinatal depression symptoms, compared with approximately 14 percent of all other women combined and 8 percent of European women. 

Pacific women who had experienced unfair treatment by a health professional in their lifetime were also 66 percent more likely to suffer from postnatal depression, compared to women who did not report these experiences. 

The funded project will enable further exploration of the experiences of women and fathers through the health system, including those who do not seek support.

Specialising in teen pregnancy research, gambling, unconscious bias and anti-racism and indigenous Pacific knowledge systems, Seini looks forward to applying her mix of quantitative and qualitative research skills and her Tongan cultural and social upbringing to her leadership of the project.

“As a daughter of the moana (Pacific) there are lived experiences and skills that shape the way we view the world, that cannot be taught in a classroom.

“We bring cultural and social knowledge; we also bring our Pacific values that are fundamental if research is to be meaningful for our Pacific families.”

Moana Research is a consultancy company based at the Nga Hau Mangere Birthing Centre, providing quality research, workforce development and advocacy services with a focus on Pacific children, families and the systems that impact on them.  

As the first wholly Pacific owned organisation to be fully funded through an HRC Pacific project grant, Dr Teuila Percival, Senior Researcher and Co-owner of the organisation is pleased with the recognition of Pacific research and knowledge systems.

“Moana Research is committed to transformative change, developing research and solutions with our community utilising Pacific narratives, strengths and models,” Teuila says.

“While there is a temptation to pathologise mental wellbeing, our research aims to explore responses that are much more aligned with our families’ experiences and therefore has policy implications that challenge the status quo.”