Skip to main content

Long-term changes in Pasifika heart health

A 10-year follow-up study on the heart health of Pacific people in Canterbury will generate valuable insights into how risk factors change over time and identify strategies for preventing and managing heart disease.

Information is lacking on the heart health of Pacific people in New Zealand, despite obesity and type 2 diabetes being more common among Pasifika, and double the rate of premature deaths from heart disease than European New Zealanders. In particular, little is known about how risk factors for heart disease in adult Pasifika change over time. 

That’s set to change with a three-year Heart Foundation project grant awarded to Dr Allamanda Faatoese of Samoan/Tuvaluan heritage, from the Christchurch Heart Institute, University of Otago.

Her research project is a 10-year follow-up of participants from the Pasifika Heart Study 2014–2015, which studied 203 Pasifika in Christchurch. Allamanda has maintained strong links with the participants through newsletters and events and she hopes to re-recruit some for this study. 

“Community research is a long-term relationship,” says Allamanda. “This study is a chance to reconnect with people who have already gifted their data to research – it’s an opportunity to give back to them and provide follow-up heart health screening.”

The follow-up study is a unique opportunity to learn how heart disease risk factors and biomarkers change over time and may differ in Pasifika.

Heart biomarkers are substances released into the bloodstream when the heart is damaged or stressed and they can be used to measure heart function.

A key aspect is the potential discovery of new biomarkers that could improve the prediction and diagnosis of heart disease for Pasifika. Researchers already have a target in their sights – a new marker that may predict the risk of type 2 diabetes. They’ll also investigate if newly discovered genetic variations may alter how Pasifika respond to prescription drugs.

Understanding these relationships is critical to improving risk prediction. Results from the study will help develop strategies for preventing and managing heart disease for Pasifika and improving heart outcomes.

In a New Zealand first, the study will report how participants’ health profiles and needs have changed over the past 10 years. Heart structure and function is being measured using heart tests (echocardiograms and electrocardiographs/ECGs) and participants will complete a health questionnaire.

Research by the community, for the community

Allamanda believes this research is part of her service to her community and to the research world.

“It’s about how we improve Pasifika heart health across the board,” says Allamanda. “It’s building data and evidence for Pasifika health that can essentially try and address disparities.”

Being involved with the Pasifika community and doing community research gives her great satisfaction. Community-facing research also builds capacity in the Pasifika research workforce by involving PhD students and other researchers.

“I’d like to thank the Heart Foundation for believing in this project, in seeing the value having Pacific faces out there doing research in our communities, and helping to do this research that affects our people,” says Allamanda.

This follow-up study builds on two previous project grants from the Heart Foundation.