Now, she has won a major scholarship to investigate how to ease the suffering of terminally ill Cook Islanders in a way that builds on traditional knowledge.
Henry is born in New Zealand but her father Tangiia Henry is from Cook Islands.
She says there are high numbers of Pacific Islanders who need palliative care through their serious final illnesses, but instead just call the ambulance when the pain becomes unbearable. That may be too late.
Now, Henry has been awarded a $135,000 doctoral scholarship to research how to improve quality of life for patients with a life-threatening illness.
Palliative care focused on symptom control and enhancing quality of life and includes the early stages of a life-limiting illness, as well as end-of-life care.
Her aim was to explore the beliefs and understanding of palliative care from an indigenous Cook Island perspective.
“I am hoping this research will benefit Cook Islanders by providing a culturally appropriate framework for clinicians within New Zealand to use when caring for Cook Island families,” she said.
“It could then be adapted to suit the needs of Cook Islanders within the Cook Islands and abroad.”
So, how important is this research for all Cook Islanders? Henry said the current model of palliative care in New Zealand was based on an English model that was not appropriate for Cook Islanders.
“Palliative care as a health field is more closely bound to the spiritual realm, the spirit and culture than any other area in health,” she said.
“I intend to focus on the pre-existing strengths and knowledge of Cook Island communities … to guide the care of Cook Islands people.”
WHO IS AMY HENRY?
* Henry lives in Christchurch and works as a district nurse which includes community palliative care.
* Her grandparents are Akaiti Henry (Cowan) and Samuel Henry.
* Her master’s thesis focuses on the experiences of palliative care for Pacific communities in Christchurch.
* From her master’s research, her clinical experience and the experience of dealing with health concerns within her own family, she has developed an interest in palliative care culture.
* “This research is important to me as I want Cook Island peoples to receive equitable care, that is not only culturally appropriate but reflects the values important to Cook Islands peoples.”