South Asians’ health in focus


The health of migrants moving to New Zealand from South Asian countries is the focus for a University of Otago research fellow.

Dunedin School of Medicine preventive and social medicine department researcher Sherly Parackal said the country’s South Asian residents – from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – showed increasing health issues within five years of their arrival in New Zealand.

Dr Parackal said she wanted “good community engagement” with Dunedin’s South Asian community, as she would eventually need 75 people to help test an ethnically specific dietary assessment tool being developed.

A research fellow with the department of preventive and social medicine since 2015, Dr Parackal has lived and worked in New Zealand with her family, mostly in Auckland, for the past 21 years.

She recently received an $87,000 grant from the Lottery Grants Board to develop the assessment, which would narrow down the differences in health outcomes between South Asians, Southeast Asians, including Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese, and other ethnicities.

“Previously, we always looked at ‘Asian’ as one group,” Dr Parackal said.

However, the difficulty with broad studies was that the differences between the two Asian groups “cancelled out” each other and problems were not being picked up as affecting particular ethnicities, she said.

She aimed to develop the assessment tool for the South Asian community, as research had found high levels of diabetes and other health-related chronic diseases in South Asians that did not exist before they migrated to New Zealand.

This was partially due to a drop in the consumption of healthy foods such as lentils, beans, fruits and vegetables.

Dr Parackal wants to study 75 Dunedinites and 75 Aucklanders, aged between 30 and 59.

People interested can contact Dr Parackal by phoning 470-4646 or emailing