$2 Million to tackle heart health inequities

The Heart Foundation and the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge have joined forces to tackle the inequities in health outcomes from cardiovascular disease amongst Māori and Pacific people.

Dr Corina Grey and Associate Professor Matire Harwood

A $2 million research grant has been awarded to a team led by Dr Corina Grey and Associate Professor Matire Harwood.

The three-year study is the first major programme of its kind in New Zealand. It aims to ensure that Māori and Pacific peoples get access to the healthcare which has the potential to achieve equity in heart health outcomes for all New Zealanders. The research involves finding out what barriers people face in accessing healthcare and coming up with a plan to reduce them.

The researchers will explore how the risk of heart disease is assessed and managed, and what can be done to reduce delays in accessing hospital care and post-hospital management of heart failure and risk factors. The researchers will then develop a roadmap for health policy makers and providers, which could alter the way healthcare is delivered across primary and secondary care.

The research team will use Kaupapa Māori and Pacific research methodologies for the study’s design, methods and analysis.

Available approaches to prevention and treatment have the potential to halve the risk of heart disease but Māori and Pacific people are less likely to receive treatment and more likely to suffer from and die of heart disease than other New Zealanders. On average, Māori and Pacific people’s lives are seven years shorter than other New Zealanders Barriers to accessing healthcare are considered to be important contributors to this.

Dr Corina Grey, from the University of Auckland, will co-lead the team of researchers. "This is a total dream project. We’ve got an amazing team and it’s what we’ve been working towards for such a long time," she says.

Co-leader Associate Professor Matire Harwood says, "We’re bringing together an excellent team with different expertise, from GPs to epidemiologists, who have all done a ton of work looking at equity and heart disease. We have the experience and for too long we haven’t been informing policy makers in New Zealand".

Professor Jim Mann, Director of Healthier Lives NSC says, "Given that our vision is of Aotearoa New Zealand with equitable health outcomes and a substantially reduced burden of non-communicable diseases, we are delighted to be partnering with the Heart Foundation in this joint venture which aims to achieve just that in relation to heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases."

"This is an important programme of work from a group of experienced researchers, led by Dr Corina Grey a current Heart Foundation Fellow. We look forward to following the research and its impact on improving equity in heart health in Aotearoa," says Gerry Devlin Medical Director of the Heart Foundation.

The research has the potential to pave the way for reducing barriers to access of medical treatment for other conditions such as diabetes in the future.