Tackling Pacific health issues through better nutrition

18 Dec, 2015
Tackling Pacific health issues through better nutrition
Professor Elaine Rush

A group of passionate Pacific workers will soon be taking their messages of healthy eating to communities ranging from Northland to Waikato.

Thirty-one students are about to graduate from the Heart Foundation’s Certificate in Pacific Nutrition Course (CPN), which aims to reduce the high rates of heart disease among Pacific people in New Zealand.

Co-ordinated by the foundation’s Pacific Heartbeat team in partnership with AUT since 2002, the CPN is a short course open to anyone working with Pacific communities. It is a Level 4 course delivered over nine days. During the course, students learn to teach general principles of nutrition and physical activity to their communities. They are also taught about buying and preparing healthy food, with an emphasis on typical Pacific foods.

“This 'train the trainer' nutrition course helps people working in Pacific communities to better train, advise and support others in making healthy food choices,” explains Mafi Funaki-Tahifote, Pacific Heartbeat operations manager and also a New Zealand-registered dietitian.

“We’re really excited to see another 31 people graduating from the CPN this year, as they can now go out into their communities equipped to make a real difference. Some of them are already putting their skills into practice.”

AUT Professor of Nutrition Elaine Rush who is a CPN academic mentor says the value of this partnership with the Heart Foundation is “priceless.”

“This partnership is the right thing to do - only by sharing expertise and the vision for the future can we make a difference.”

“Students and their families value having a qualification from a university – and it is a privilege for AUT to provide this to a course that is about real learning and changing behaviour,” says Elaine.

Mafi says heart disease is the biggest killer of New Zealanders, taking more than 6500 lives every “Compared to non-Pacific people, Pacific adults are 2.5 times more likely to be obese, 2.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, and 1.4 times as likely to have high blood pressure.

“It’s vital that we share about good nutrition with our people because healthy eating is a core part of staying healthy and looking after our hearts,” Mafi says.

The CPN graduation ceremony, which brought together graduates from as far North as Whangaroa and as far South as Hamilton, was held on Friday 11 December at One Tree Hill Domain in Auckland.

The course also looks at the prevention of diseases for Pacific people, and nutrition issues relating to healthy eating for pregnant and breast-feeding Pacific women.