Skip to main content

Supporting innovations in heart health

Anna Rolleston has had a long standing passion for her community and for reducing the impact of heart disease.

As the co-convenor of this month’s 3rd Indigenous Cardiovascular Health Conference being held in Wellington, she is hoping more progress can be made to find solutions to the country’s high rates of heart disease - particularly amongst Māori.

“Heart disease is preventable and can be well managed,” Anna says.

“However, we still have very high rates in New Zealand, with Māori and Pacific people experiencing poorer outcomes than others.

“Heart disease is more complex than simply telling people to eat well, be more active and to stop smoking. We need to take a step away from what we’re currently doing, engage with our community, and problem solve heart health in a different way to make a real difference.”

Having bridged the gap between academia and communities for many years, she has seen the highs and lows of what’s being done to address heart disease.

Changing how we work

“Through my community work and while carrying out Heart Foundation funded research, I’ve seen and heard from real people. I have come to understand that those of us that are deemed ‘experts’ in heart health would be much more successful in supporting people, if we understand those people from their own perspectives. I’m passionate about people having a real say in their own health.”

Much of Anna’s work has focussed on using a Māori philosophy to inform heart health solutions.

“One of the biggest challenges is a lack of understanding within the health system of how to support people beyond medical intervention.”

She says what’s needed is a more people-centred approach that delivers health services that are focused on helping people to remain well.

“This means gaining a better understanding of different people and what works best to keep them healthy.”

Sharing ideas

Anna says the upcoming Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ) conference will provide an ideal forum for health professionals and researchers from both sides of the Tasman to network and exchange ideas and learnings.

“It’s an opportunity for us to all come together and share our thoughts, for the benefit of our unique communities and ultimately improve heart health.”

Aside from her co-convener role, Anna will be talking about a Heart Foundation-funded trial that looked at the impact of incorporating Māori values into a largely clinical lifestyle management programme.

“For Māori, and for many people, the issue is not heart disease - it is health. Poor health may have a physical impact on our heart, but the heart isn’t the only thing being impacted. What needs to change is our approach to addressing the heart as a physical system in the body distinct from anything else and separate from the mind and spirit.”

The Conference aims to come up with a series of recommendations and a five-year plan that will improve cardiovascular health especially for those groups in our community that are most affected.

Read our latest news