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Assessing Cook Islanders’ mental health

Monday December 21, 2015 Written by Published in Education
New Doctor of Philosophy Jess Kokaua graduated from Otago University. 15121720 New Doctor of Philosophy Jess Kokaua graduated from Otago University. 15121720

Otago University’s latest graduation ceremony marked the end of many years of research for Cook Islands’ newest Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Jesse Kokaua.


New Zealand Ministry of Health biostatistician, Jesse took the last year off his work with the Southern District Health Board to complete his research study which looked at the prevalence of mental disorder and mental health service use by Cook Islanders in New Zealand.

His study used a range of statistical models to investigate patterns of metal disorders, treatment-seeking in the face of untreated recovery, and the use of government funded mental health services by New Zealanders with Cook Island ethnicity.

 The analysis culminated in a discussion of the impact of migration on Cook Island migrants and subsequent generations.  While older migrants themselves were mentally resilient, their descendants were less so. 

Cook Islands descendants, more so than other Pacific groups, appeared to exhibit negative effects of acculturation to contemporary New Zealand society.

 However, the overall results of the study appear to support the proposition that migrant communities which retain much of their own cultures, appear mentally well, irrespective of how much they adopt from their host culture.

Jesse Kokaua is the youngest son of the late Jane and Taiti Kokaua who lived in Pokoinu, Nikao, and is the brother of Maureen Kokaua-Hilyard.

Initially graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Canterbury University, Jesse remained as a tutor until he gained his Masters degree and then joined the Ministry of Health in New Zealand where he has worked for 21 years.

Through much of this time he was the sole Pacific Statistician in New Zealand but his department now includes colleagues from Tonga and Samoa.

Jesse celebrated this major achievement in Dunedin with his wife, Ann, two of his
four children, daughters Rebekah and Sarah and his sister, Jane.         


  • Comment Link Tihau Bishop Sunday, 27 December 2015 08:56 posted by Tihau Bishop

    Kia Orana Jesse,

    Congratulations in achieving this amazing milestone in studying the mental wellbeing of our people.
    I look forward to reading your thesis and to one day meeting you face to face.. perhaps in 2016... to discuss further your findings about the second wave / generation of disturbance in Aotearoa.

    Well done in completing your studies at Otago University... Te Rangi Hiroa and Maui Pomare would be very proud of your achievements. ..

    Kia Kaha,
    Atawai Wolo,

  • Comment Link Congratulations Wednesday, 23 December 2015 09:00 posted by Congratulations

    Congratulations dr.jess kokaua.

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