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Inaugural Pacific Research Fellow aims to enhance equity in discharge planning

Dr Sandra Hanchard, Research Fellow at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, has been awarded the Heart Foundation’s inaugural Pacific Research Fellowship.

A smiling Dr Sandra Hanchard wears a maroon coloured blouse and dangly earrings. She stands in front of a window that looks out onto a tree and lawn. She is in a hospital environment.Dr Sandra Hanchard, Research Fellow at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland

Of Tongan heritage, Dr Hanchard says she is motivated by the lived experience of heart disease in her family and extended whānau. She says that having returned to Aotearoa recently with her family after a decade of living in South-East Asia, she is keen to contribute to Pacific health and wellbeing.

I’m incredibly honoured to be the recipient of the Inaugural Joint Heart Foundation – Pūtahi Manawa HHANZ CoRE Pacific Fellowship and grateful for the Heart Foundation and Pūtahi Manawa support,“ she says.

“I’m excited that the Fellowship will serve as a springboard for me to spread messages of getting your heart checked early, as Pacific people are affected by heart disease at a younger age.”

Dr Hanchard works as a Research Fellow at Manawataki Fatu Fatu (Māori and Pacific hearts in unison) for Achieving Cardiovascular Care for Equity Studies (ACCESS), a research programme joint-funded by the Heart Foundation and Healthier Lives National Science Challenge and hosted by the University of Auckland.

Her project, Equity-focused discharge planning for heart failure, will seek to understand what equity looks like for discharge planning and how some disparities in outcomes for Māori and Pacific people develop.

“Discharge planning is crucial in managing heart failure patients’ transition from hospital to long-term care in the community. In our research, clinicians and patients have told us there are opportunities to improve current practices in discharge planning.

“I want to understand how improvements to discharge planning can address the higher hospitalisation, readmission and mortality rates for Māori and Pacific people compared to non-Māori and non-Pacific people.”

Dr Hanchard says her vision for the project is for Māori and Pacific people with heart failure to live well and enjoy a higher quality of life. The three key aspects of her project will involve

  • empowering patients and whānau to be partners in care by embedding their communication wishes in the system;
  • applying consistent, evidence-based heart failure management pathways; and
  • enhancing the transfer of care between hospital, primary and community providers.

“This is a timely proposal during the current restructuring of the healthcare system as we seek consistent and coordinated heart health care that is responsive to the needs of priority communities,” she says.

Heart Foundation Medical Director Dr Gerry Devlin says it is incredibly pleasing to be able to support Sandra’s research with the award of this Pacific Research Fellowship.

“Outcomes for people with heart attacks and other heart conditions have improved dramatically due to research. New and better treatments result in longer and healthier lives for thousands of New Zealanders, but we continue to see differences across society.

“Sandra’s work to better understand discharge planning will provide valuable knowledge as we seek to address the existing equity gaps.”

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