Student collaboration brings health research back to the community

30 Aug 2017

Dr Lisa Schubert and Dr Jo Durham recently collaborated with a group of fifteen Communication for Social Change (CSC) Master’s students on a project that assessed factors influencing the health and wellbeing of young Māori and Pasifika people living in Logan City.

The CSC Master’s students performed a Participatory Needs and Opportunities Assessment (PNOA), interviewing and interacting with four groups of stakeholders; youth and adult primary stakeholders, external stakeholders and secondary stakeholders, to develop rich findings and recommendations for The School of Public Health.

The assessment, which took place over three weeks, uncovered information about the society and culture of the Māori and Pasifika people that directly affects the community’s health.

Dr Jo Durham believes that the success of the project is proof of how important collaboration is between faculties.

“A lot of the information we found would have been lost if we’d done this research purely from a health standpoint,” she said.

We also need to be looking into social and community factors, and how processes of migration, identity and discrimination influence health.  That is where the Communication for Social Change students came in.”

It was found that while the public health discourse around this community often stresses the disparities in health outcomes and the sociocultural determinants of health, the young people in this community have incredible resilience, abilities & knowledge

The point of this project is to reverse the discourse around the Māori and Pasifika community in Logan.  Instead of approaching the health of this community with an emphasis on issues, like the high rate of obesity, Schubert and Durham argue, the discourse needs to focus on the community’s strengths, and how these strengths can impact positively on their health.

“Rather than coming in with our expert knowledge to ‘fix’ things we need to be curious, to ask questions, listen and provide spaces to co-construct new knowledge and solutions,” Dr Durham said.

This is what communication for social change can help us do.”