AUT Associate Professor receives inaugural PHANZ Pasifika Award

Associate Professor Dr El-Shadan Tautolo has been recognised for his outstanding achievement and leadership in Pacific public health.

The Public Health Association of New Zealand honours outstanding contributions to the nation’s public health in the annual PHANZ Awards. Tautolo was the recipient of the inaugural 2020 Pasifika Award, which he dedicated to the late Dr Joe Williams.

Tautolo says, Dr Williams’ work provided an example of how public health research can influence clinical practice and help address health issues for Pacific peoples.

The award was unexpected.

“I was really surprised, but happy to accept it on behalf of our Pacific families and communities, and all of the people that I work with in Pacific health research,” he says.

For more than 15 years, Tautolo has championed Pacific health, initially as a doctoral student and emerging researcher, and now as an associate professor of public health and Director of the Pacific Health Research Centre based at AUT South Campus.

His primary area of research is the health and wellbeing of Pacific families and communities in New Zealand, and he le ads numerous research projects, most notably the ground-breaking longitudinal Pacific Islands Families (PIF) Study, which tracks the development of almost 1400 children born at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital in 2000.

“We have been able to build a comprehensive picture of what happens with these families and how the children have developed over time. It has allowed us to focus on important issues for Pacific families, and develop strategies to support them,” says Tautolo.

His research has had a significant impact on the lives of Pacific people. Tautolo’s academic achievements to date include more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and $15 million in research funding. The findings have informed the Ministry of Health’s food and nutrition guidelines, the CMDHB Let’s Beat Diabetes service, Tala Pasifika smoking cessation interventions, and early screening of otitis media (an infection of the middle ear) in infants.

In 2020, Tautolo collaborated with AUT’s Office of Pacific Advancement and the Pacific Media Network to create a series of animated videos highlighting key findings from the PIF Study over the past 20 years. Each video explored a critical issue (ranging from nutrition and immunisation, to mental health and cultural resilience) spoken in one of the nine languages celebrated as part of the Ministry of Pacific Peoples’ annual Pacific Language Weeks. Collectively, the videos attracted more than 500,000 views and were shared 3,000 times.

Tautolo often appears in media, commenting on issues that affect the health and wellbeing of Pacific peoples. And he maintains strong roots in the community through family, church and his professional network.