Improving the heart health of New Zealand’s Pacific communities – the work of the Pacific Heartbeat team

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Start: Thu, 13 May 2021 08:30 BST

End: Thu, 13 May 2021 09:30 BST

In this seminar we will hear about the health needs and health inequities experienced by New Zealand’s Pacific communities, and learn about the work of the Pacific Heartbeat team, set up by the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand. 

Around 380,000 people in New Zealand derive from the Pacific Islands. Amongst Pacific people, there is a wide diversity of nationalities, ethnicities and languages. Pacific communities in New Zealand experience significant inequities and poor health outcomes. Life expectancy is 5 years lower for men and 4.5 years lower for women compared with the rest of New Zealands population. Rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer are high, and experienced at a younger age than non-Pacific New Zealanders. 

Rates of obesity, smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity and psychological distress are all high. Pacific adults are 2.5 times more likely to be obese compared with non-Pacific adults, and Pacific children 3.3 times more likely to be obese than non-Pacific children. 

The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand works to stop New Zealanders dying too early from heart disease, and helps people with heart disease live full and productive lives. Its Pacific Heartbeat team focuses on the needs of New Zealand’s Pacific Island populations, running initiatives that encourage eating well, being smokefree and being more active.

Join us!


Tutuila Lio Va’auli is of Samoan descent and holds two talking chief titles from Samoa-Tutuila and Lefeau. He’s been in education for over thirty years, first as a Secondary School Teacher for twenty five years in New Zealand and Samoa, more recently moving into Health Promotion with Pacific Heartbeat-Heart Foundation as Community Liaison Lead.

His role involves engaging with the Pasifika Community and stakeholders at the grass roots level through churches, early childhood centres, community events and through to the workforce. At the workforce level he engages with non-government and government organisations with large numbers of Pasifika workers to see if these organisation would like to collaborate with the team at Pacific Heartbeat.

Associate Professor Colin Tukuitonga is the New Zealand Heart Foundation Chief Advisor Pacific, government appointee to the NZ Health Quality & Safety Commission board and member of the NZ College of Public Health Medicine Council. He has previously led the NZ Ministry of Pacific Affairs and worked with the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland. He is a Niuean New Zealander and strong advocate for improving health and wellbeing of Pacific people in the region.

Maria Bernard is a New Zealand born Samoan brought up in West Auckland. She spent almost two decades living abroad, mostly in the UK. Maria is passionate about eating well and cooking healthy food, this led her to study Human Nutrition at Massey University, Auckland. She was the only Pacific nutritionist in her year at Massey and feels a great urgency to support Pacific communities that are in crisis. Maria has been working in the Pacific Heartbeat Team within the Heart Foundation for just over 2 years: “It has been very rewarding working with our Pacific Communities sharing nutritional information to improve their health outcomes.” Maria is an Associate Registered Nutritionist working towards being a Registered Nutritionist.