Buoyed by the success of two previous research projects, a children's hospital and a child health foundation are urging New Zealand's medical students to do more to help Māori and Pasifika tamariki.
Counties Manukau Health's Kidz First Children's Hospital and the Buddle Findlay Child Health Foundation are tapping the shoulders of medical students to take advantage of a new research scholarship programme to undertake research aimed at improving the wellbeing of tamariki in Aotearoa.
It's the second time the hospital and the foundation have paved the way for significant research with the new student research scholarship programme – which encourages and supports students who are considering or have the potential to have a future career in health research.
The first took place earlier this year, with two research projects covering a range of critical health issues faced by Māori and Pasifika tamariki.
One was a long-term follow-up of post-streptococcus glomerulonephritis (PSGN) in Auckland tamariki. Streptococci are responsible for a broad spectrum of diseases, morbidity, and mortality, with an estimated 1.78 million new cases yearly worldwide.
The study aimed to determine the long-term health impacts of childhood PSGN and determine its risk factors for chronic kidney disease later in life. It improved understanding of PSGN pathogenesis, microbiology and long-term sequelae (conditions arising from a previous disease or injury). It may also aid New Zealand's efforts to improve its understanding of streptococcus-related diseases and allow optimal advice to patients and families about long-term prognosis and management of close household contacts.
The second project looked at the risks for obstructive sleep apnea in Pasifika youth at the time of leaving school. Respiratory disease is the third most prevalent cause of death in New Zealand. Hospitalisations caused by respiratory disease is 2.6 times higher in the Pacific population compared to that across all ages.
The study identified the need for awareness among the Pasifika community and general practitioners about the problem of sleep apnea among adolescents with snoring, asthma, obesity, and elevated blood pressure.
Lisette Hood, Buddle Findlay Child Health Foundation trustee, says the new scholarship programme teaches medical students the important research and analytical skills needed: "Every child in New Zealand deserves the right to health equity and research is a key factor in driving equitable health outcomes. The Kidz First Children's Hospital programme is an opportunity to develop and strengthen the Māori and Pasifika health research workforce.
"Medical research is fundamental to the future of our health care, particularly for those in Māori and Pasifika communities. Engaging with undergraduate students during a time when they are planning the direction of their career is a strong opportunity to showcase this."
Julia Gabrielle, also a Buddle Findlay Child Health Foundation fellow trustee says: "The research projects have an impact on not only the health areas of study but the confidence and research-focused mindset of the students taking part.
"Supporting child healthcare is a natural fit for Buddle Findlay; our partners and staff have a genuine desire to make a difference. The Foundation is firmly committed to improving the experience for kids in hospital whether through research or providing resources."
The Buddle Findlay Child Health Foundation is a charitable trust established by the partners of Buddle Findlay in 2005 and supports tamariki receiving residential medical care in New Zealand.
If hospitals face an urgent need for equipment, research or other vital resources, the foundation will quickly consider applications for funding to help meet the need and provide an immediate and direct benefit to tamariki. Since its inception, the foundation has donated over $1.125m for medical equipment and research.
Associate Professor of Paediatrics Cass Byrnes and Dr Adrian Trenholme led the establishment of the student research sponsorship programme.
In a joint statement, they say that it's "incredibly satisfying" to see doctors of the future engaging in research that will have an impact on the young people of their own communities.
"The success of the first intake of medical students and the research projects is a good sign for the future of our health care for all tamariki."