Tag Archives: Research projects

Pasifika Group Photo

Talanoa approach supports long-term change for Pasifika women with diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is a significant public health problem and Australian Pacific Islander women and their communities are experiencing a higher burden of morbidity and mortality from the disease. Despite the higher burden, there are few initiatives that are culturally tailored to improve prevention and management.

We spoke to Women’s Wellness Research Collaborative member Dr Heena Akbar from the University of Queensland about using talanoa, a community-based research methodology, to build capacity with Australian Pacific Islander women in Queensland to develop culturally relevant methods of information sharing and knowledge building to improve health outcomes for women with Type 2 Diabetes.

Can you tell us more about this project and how it came about?

The Pasifika Women’s Diabetes Wellness Program was borne out of wanting to look at diabetes in the Pasifika (Pacific) context because, as a person from Fiji, we are often faced with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in our communities, both in the islands but also in Australia. Here in Australia, we don’t have recent data, which makes it challenging for our communities to address this important issue.

I started my PhD in 2013 after talking to our community elders and members about how we might address this problem in a culturally appropriate and strength-based way. My PhD looked at “Socio-Cultural Context of Managing Type 2 Diabetes in Australian Pacific Islander Women Living in Queensland” where through participatory action research and embedding the Talanoa Pacific methods – story telling – we aimed to understand how our women who already have type 2 diabetes were looking after themselves and managing their diabetes within their family and community context.

The focus of this research was about working together with our women in the Māori and Pasifika community to develop awareness around diabetes and to promote diabetes prevention and management for our Pasifika community. We worked closely with our Pasifika communities to host three diabetes health forums (during my PhD) that provided diabetes education, promoted awareness around chronic conditions and undertook health screening for our people within a culturally safe community space.

Community led initiatives have a far more powerful impact on change. This is partly because we frame our work through cultural safety principles and cultural values such as identity, respect, reciprocity, spirituality, family and community, which are pertinent to Māori and Pasifika communities and our ways of knowing, being and doing.

Can you tell us more about the community-academic partnership and the value of this to the project?

Community-academia partnership is really important, particularly when we want to build a culturally responsive research path for academia and community collaboration.

Strong partnerships are also very important if we want to make a positive contribution towards influencing long-term health behaviours.

Our work is largely a partnership with the Pasifika Women’s Alliance Inc. (PWA), a culturally diverse network of women from across Oceania that seeks to build and strengthen a Queensland sisterhood of Pacific Islander women and to raise awareness of members as to their rights and responsibilities as citizens and encourages their participation in all aspects of community life. A large part of this is ensuring that our women are aware of their health and includes promoting healthier and stronger families through projects like the Pasifika Women’s Diabetes Wellness Program.

What is the Talanoa Framework and how was it used in your approach?

‘Talanoa’ frames how we talk to each other. Talanoa – is a Pasifika way of having conversations and dialogues between people and relies heavily on building and maintaining relationships. Talanoa with elders and members of the Pasifika communities are critical in community engagement and in the development of diabetes research protocols to ensure long-term benefits and change in health inequities.

In the Pasifika Diabetes Wellness context, it is important for us to build personal connections with our women and communities – using our Pasifika way – ‘Talanoa’ – which means that our women own the process of collecting the information that is meaningful to them.

It is also about acknowledging our ancestors, our culture, where we come from and giving that respect to our people. Trust, reciprocity, spirituality, nurturing is all part of our collective Pacific culture. Embracing these in the research processes is imperative to working respectfully with Pacific peoples and is very important in our understanding of our health and wellbeing.

We have approached this research using talanoa as a cultural framework and taking this approach has certainly made the research and collecting information more meaningful for our women and community.

What have been some of the notable outcomes of this project to date – for the community and academia?

Our research and this project have built strong partnerships with key stakeholders, including Griffith University, Diabetes Queensland, The Good Start Program for Māori and Pacific Islander Communities, and many community groups who are represented by our PWA members. PWA have been pivotal in creating a safe space for our women to engage in this research process and also to ensuring that the research mutually benefited our Pacific communities.

Through these partnerships, we have led three very significant community summits – the Pacific women’s diabetes health forums, in 2013 and 2014, and community-led Pasifika diabetes health from in 2016.

We have also worked very closely with our Pasifika communities and PWA to provide a culturally-safe community space to run diabetes education sessions, undertake health screening for our people and conduct Talanoa discussions to collect information with our people. More than 90 Queensland University of Technology students have also conducted community placements in these health forums.

This framework has been used worldwide amongst Indigenous peoples and is notably a very successful model because it is driven by the people and for the people using their own cultural frameworks.

We have also been instrumental in building individual as well as organisational capacity for our women to address health in the community. We developed a teaching module which is currently being used by the Federal Government to train and educate health providers in how to work with culturally and linguistically diverse and Indigenous communities such as ours.

We have presented in several national and international Health conferences including NZ, Hawaii, Canada, Cairns and here in Brisbane and were awarded two grants to run the Diabetes health forums and carry out the research (through Diabetes Queensland and QUT Engagement and Innovation grant).

Future grants have allowed us to develop the Pasifika Women’s Diabetes Wellness Program and the most recent funding will allow us to trial this program.

For more information about the Pasifika Women’s Diabetes Program, visit www.dawncomplete.org.au.

Dr Heena Akbar is a Lecturer in Public Health within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland and an Adjunct Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology.

Exploring the feasibility of a virtual wellness program for women after cancer

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, workplaces and communities have been using online platforms more than ever before in order to stay socially connected despite physical distance. So how can this work in a wellness setting where support and connection is so key to success? We asked Dr Janine Porter-Steele from the Wesley Choices Cancer Support Centre and Dr Sarah Balaam from the University of Queensland about the latest EMERALD study, which is exploring the feasibility of the Younger Women’s Wellness after Cancer Program in Australian women.

What is the EMERALD Study and what are you trying to achieve with this trial? 

A team of leading Australian and New Zealand health researchers have been working together to pilot a virtual lifestyle intervention, the Younger Women’s Wellness after Cancer Program. This program aims to improve quality of life for younger women who have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. We aim to reduce treatment-related chronic disease risk for people taking part in the study and to determine whether this is feasible in the Australian context.

How did this Study come about? 

Partner trials of cultural-and language-adapted versions of EMERALD are currently underway in New Zealand and Hong Kong. The aim of this study is to test the feasibility of the Australian version of EMERALD in a similarly-aged, representative sample of women prior to a larger trial of the program across Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Ultimately, we would like to see the wellness program embedded in clinical and community settings, making it easily accessible to those requiring post cancer treatment support.

Who can participate and how can they get involved? 

We are looking for women aged between 18 and 50 years old, who have had treatment for breast cancer in the previous 24 months, with no metastatic disease and have access to a personal computer, tablet device or smartphone.

Please visit us here to find out more.

Helping young people rebuild their lives after cancer

A digital program to support young people adjusting to life after cancer has been awarded $1.37 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

WWRC collaborator Professor Sandie McCarthy, from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work is leading the project BALANCE, which will be developed by UQ in partnership with cancer support organisation Canteen.

Professor McCarthy said the aim of the digital program was to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of young people treated for cancer by giving them the knowledge and skills to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

“Surviving cancer does not necessarily mean younger people can return to their former state of health – they must work at it,” Professor McCarthy said.

“Young people need mental health strategies to manage the distress associated with their cancer experience.

“As the program is driven by the needs of young people, it will be designed and delivered in consultation with them.”

For more information about BALANCE, contact Professor McCarthy at s.mccarthy@uq.edu.au

Video courtesy of Channel 10 News, airing 8 October 2021

The BALANCE program is supported by:

Supporting women’s wellness

Researchers, health practitioners and educators from across the globe gathered virtually to launch the Women’s Wellness Research Collaborative – an international research organisation dedicated to supporting women across every stage of life.

Founder and Director, Professor Debra Anderson, said the launch marked a milestone for the organisation and for herself, personally.

“I have been developing the Women’s Wellness Research Collaborative for more than 10 years, bringing together the best minds in the field from across the globe,” Professor Anderson said.

“The launch of this Collaborative signifies a shift in how we view and talk about women’s wellness, with a stronger focus on evidence-based research that supports women with practical, research-based solutions to manage ongoing health concerns.

“Our research covers all the elements that contribute to women’s wellbeing, including exercise and diet, managing stress and anxiety, sleeping well and implementing positive lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of developing preventable conditions,” she said.

“We’ve translated some of this research into a number of evidence-based wellness programs – Dawn Complete Health and Wellbeing – to address specific health needs for women, including wellness after cancer and managing type 2 diabetes, which we are delivering alongside a number of clinical partners across the Asia Pacific region and in the UK.”

The Collaborate has several projects currently underway and recruiting participants across Australia and New Zealand, including the Entwine project – a screening tool for women with gynaecological cancer and the Kōwhai Study – looking at promoting younger women’s wellness after breast cancer treatment, particularly in women of New Zealand and European origin.

Professor Anderson said the Collaborative, only in its infancy, is set to make a huge impact on how we talk about women’s wellness, bringing more evidence to the discussion to fully support women throughout their lives.

“Our vision is to continue to work with leading clinical partners and educators to influence the wellness conversation, drive meaningful programs and support women to get the best out of life, at every stage of life,” she said.

The Collaborative is supported by several research partners, including the University of Technology Sydney, The Menzies Health Institute Queensland and Griffith University, the University of Queensland and the University of Auckland.