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Monday 23 May 2022 10:39am

A study by the University of Otago, Christchurch has found that every single Pasifika participant in a new Pegasus Health lifestyle and cooking programme lost body fat – with the majority trialled also improving key health and wellbeing measures such as lower cholesterol and greater social connection.

Puāwai-Kai is a new Pegasus Health programme Cantabrians can access through their general practitioner or via website. The free 8-week course includes learnings on improved diet, managing stress, better sleep and how to cook affordable, healthy food using seasonal vegetables and fruit.

To ensure the programme benefits as many Cantabrians as possible, the Pūawai-Kai Healthy Lifestyle team trialled it on a wide range of groups, including men, refugee communities, older people and Māori and Pasifika groups.

Allamanda Faatoese
Dr Allamanda Faatoese.

The study was led by the University of Otago's Dr Allamanda Faatoese, from the Department of Medicine's Christchurch Heart Institute, as part of her ongoing research addressing heart disease risk among Canterbury's Pacific communities.

Dr Faatoese studied three groups of Pacific people who completed the Puāwai-Kai course in the latter half of 2021 – one group participated during the national COVID‑19 lock-down.

The study recorded changes in blood pressure, cholesterol profile, blood sugar, weight and body fat. Early analysis of the three Pasifika family groups found all participants dropped both body fat and triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood and high levels increase the risk of conditions such as heart attack and stroke.

Dr Faatoese says the results are very encouraging.

“They indicate the quality of the Puāwai-Kai programme and its potential to improve Cantabrians' health and wellbeing. Hopefully the health improvements we saw from this pilot will translate into better outcomes for long term conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“The Pasifika families who took part all had a strong desire to live long and healthy lives, yet the high cost of healthy eating combined with busy lifestyle demands can make that difficult for many. The decreased body fat and triglycerides they achieved were a result of their having made just small changes, such as learning which foods are healthy and affordable, being more active daily, getting good sleep and adopting strategies to manage stress – all key components of the Puāwai-Kai course.

The wider benefits included greater social connectivity. Our lockdown group were keen to remain connected and learning together after the course ended, so we enabled their engagement to continue online,” says Dr Faatoese.

Pegasus Health CEO Mark Liddle says Puāwai-Kai helps Cantabrians learn that small changes in the way they live can add up to big changes in their health and wellbeing.

For more information, contact:

Lorelei Mason
Communications Advisor
University of Otago, Christchurch

Kim Thomas
Mob +64 27 222 6016

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