Dr Troy Ruhe has ancestral links to Mauke. Picture: Kōrero by Keilah Fox/University of Otago/ 22120511
Pacific health research generally leads with the best of intentions, but does it actually have an impact? University of Otago Research fellow Dr Troy Ruhe (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Mauke) will spend the next four years finding out.
his postdoctoral fellowship funded by the Health Research Council (HRC), Dr
Ruhe will create a tool that will measure the impact of Pacific health research
on Pacific communities.
tool will be an extension of a version of the Tivaivai research framework that
he developed as part of his PhD.
wants to help researchers move away from researching Pacific communities “for
the sake of research”.
lot of the time, Pacific communities just become subjects of research for
outcomes that don’t necessarily serve them in the long term.”
impact has been a hot topic in recent years, with the University creating a
research impact strategy just this year.
research is not unknown territory for Dr Ruhe who became interested in this
“meta” perspective while completing his honours, where he looked at Pacific
research methodologies and models of health.
first phase of his project will look at models that measure research impact
within Aotearoa and other indigenous populations.
will then meet with community groups to get their perspectives on what
impactful research looks like to them and what outcomes they would hope for
following health research.
final phase involves workshopping ideas about what impactful research looks
like with Pacific health researchers across universities in Aotearoa.
are the priorities? What are the things we need to put forward and foreground?
just get to learn. It’s going to be a huge humbling process of me having to
revisit my own thoughts about what I think Pacific health research is as well,”
this consultation he will develop a tool, for use in the Integrated Data
Infrastructure, to assess the impact of research and approach certain Pacific
communities to put it to the test.
Ruhe will pilot the tool by identifying a health issue important to various
Cook Islands communities in the South Island at the time and apply his model.
Ruhe says the tool is ultimately designed to “uplift the homies” and the work
that is already being done to drive Pacific communities forward.
communities are already doing awesome work, but now you’ve got a tool to be
able to measure just how well it’s working.
can go in and use this tool to evaluate what they’re already doing and then
perhaps lobby for more funding for them.”
also wants traditional Pacific ways of thinking and collecting knowledge to not
only be recognised as scientifically valid, but for it to also be prioritised
when conducting Pacific health research.
want Pacific methodologies and Pacific ways of relationality to be normal and
to be considered as a valid form of conducting and collecting information.”
hopes researchers will see the importance of creating relationships and
building cultural capital when conducting Pacific health research.
you volunteering time at community events, it’s you being part of cultural
groups so that you understand the lived realities of the people you’re working
with. That builds your cultural capital.
don’t have people speaking to you and opening up to you unless you have that
relationality,” he says.
grant, valued at $430,102, is Dr Ruhe’s fourth grant from the HRC. In 2015 he
received a summer studentship to study fall risk in Pacific elderly and their
attitudes towards fall prevention.
was cool because that actually changed some of the curriculum they had for the
elderly programme to put more falls-focused stuff into it.”
second grant tested the Tivaivai research methodology and a self-developed
circuit-based exercise model that revolves around the preparation of food and
Cook Islands dance.
was followed by a knowledge translation grant.
HRC has provided “really good stepping stones” that have helped develop him as
a researcher, he says.
Ruhe was grateful to be going through the HRC’s application process alongside
his colleague Professional Practice Fellow Leina Isno, who also received
funding for her research on scrub typhus in Vanuatu.
a certain struggle when you’re going through an application phase because you
have to do it on top of the work that you’re already doing. That’s unpaid time
and it’s for something that’s not guaranteed.
try to keep pretty chill and say if it happens it happens, but it becomes your
world. You try and act like you’re not going to be upset if it doesn’t happen
but there’s so much of you that you put into the application and it was nice
having someone else who knew exactly where you were at.”
Ruhe was also recently a recipient of the 2022 University of Otago’s 20Twenties
Young Alumni Awards.
Ruhe will start his postdoctoral research project in June next year.