Health challenges in the Pacific region discussed at 2nd Pacific Health Governance Research Network

Delegates at the 2nd Pacific Health Governance Research Network,
20-22 February 2019 (Nadi, Fiji).

The second workshop of the Pacific Health Governance Research Network provided the opportunity for attendees to discuss and collaborate on addressing the health challenges in the Pacific region which were highlighted in the first workshop in Brisbane (February 2018).  Hosted by The Pacific Community, Fiji National University and the University of Queensland in Nadi, Fiji (20-22 February 2019), five major research areas to discuss were climate change and health; health systems and universal health coverage; non-communicable diseases; food systems and the Pacific; and health security and WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene).

Dr Audrey Aumua in her welcome address told delegates the event was about creating a space for collaboration, networking and an opportunity to drive a research agenda from within the Pacific.  This requires ethics and collaboration with research partners to assist with this, particularly around examining the role of Pacific led, Pacific owned and Pacific standard of integrity.

Hon Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete (Minister for Health and Medical Services, Fiji) acknowledged the need to focus on implementing, designing, refining and strengthening Primary Health Care and added “integrating public health and clinical services as a priority” in order to address the NCD crises in the region.  The current focus on clinical services needed to change.

“The health impacts of climate change” is a real threat in the Pacific region and as Dr Colin Tukuitonga highlighted (who joined via video link), climate change affects the entire social determinants of health and is an ‘effect multiplier’ aggravating pre-existing threats, thus preparedness was key.  Knowing the effects of climate change on the health of children and the elderly is an area that warrants further investigation.

The Pacific clinicians and academics living and working in the region acknowledged the need to move towards a primary health care and life course approach, with a focus on the early years – from pre-conception, maternal and child health.  Being part of these conversations, Moana Research was able to share the work we’re currently involved with (from the perspective of Pacific living in NZ) such as the A Better Start National Science Challenge and Counties Manukau Health (Primary Birthing Unit and Sudden Unexplained Death in Infants projects).

Despite each Pacific country facing their own challenges, many are working tirelessly within their roles to combat these health issues. In Tuvalu for instance, the Fisheries department are teaching women how to preserve their own fish instead of purchasing tinned fish, and the Department of Agriculture are working with households to make and use organic fertilisers for their gardens. It is so important that approaches and programmes use indigenous knowledge systems that are culturally contextualised for each Pacific country in the region.

We look forward to hearing about progress at the third Pacific Health Governance Research Network which is to be held in Auckland (date and venue TBC).

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