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In recent times it has broken new ground in setting up a drive-through vaccination centre, partnered with Maori and Pasifika students associations to run a mass vaccination clinic at Forsyth Barr Stadium, and set the wheels in motion for Dunedin’s first vaccination bus.
Now comes news of ambitious plans for a wellbeing centre to be built on its campus, a venture which promises significant health and welfare benefits for Dunedin’s most vulnerable citizens should the dream which underpins it be fulfilled.
The rise of Te Kaika is remarkable, its prominence in Dunedin’s health firmament undreamed of when it was launched in March 2018.
While much of the credit for the organisation’s success has gone to its operators, the Ngai Tahu-owned Otakou Health Limited, Te Kaika means ‘‘the village’’ and it has taken a village to raise Te Kaika to these heights.
Partnership has been a key component of the vision behind Te Kaika, and many organisations, both large and small, have come together under its banner.
The hope from the start has been that Te Kaika would be a ‘‘one-stop shop’’ where if someone who was physically ill presented, that they could also be referred to someone who could assist with any mental health issues, accessing any unclaimed Ministry of Social Development entitlements, budgeting advice, and a range of other services.
Its approach has been vindicated, both by the numbers of people who have flocked to enrol with the practice — about 7000 Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha — and also the results it has achieved for them.
Te Kaika has been involved in programmes to improve housing, and also to move people away from welfare dependence and into work.
The organisation is having a demonstrable effect on the lives of many, not just its immediate clients but its wholehearted involvement in the Covid-19 vaccination drive.
As well as working with Maori and Pasifika health providers on programmes to target those hard-to-reach communities, Te Kaika grabbed the initiative to set up vaccination programmes for the wider community.
Those initiatives were eagerly embraced, and Dunedin’s position among the most vaccinated communities in New Zealand is due in no small part to the efforts of Te Kaika.
Its leaders, chief executive Albie Laurence and Donna Matahaere-Atariki are at the forefront of Te Kaika, but each would quickly defer credit to the organisation’s 50 FTE staff and the hundreds of people who have worked with it, both professionally and on a volunteer basis, for what Te Kaika has achieved.
The hub development is fresh official recognition of the strides Te Kaika has taken.
It will be a collaborative effort between MSD, the Southern District Health Board, and Te Kaika, and is recognition by the two government agencies that Te Kaika gets results.
There is something in it for those organisations in terms of getting people off benefits or keeping them out of hospital, but achieving those things are good for society as a whole and are potentially life changing for the families who find just the help that they need at Te Kaika.
The challenge for Te Kaika as it moves towards opening its new hub will be to avoid becoming ‘‘institutional’’ and to retain its sense of community.
What will keep it on that track is listening to that community; doing so sparked both small-scale initiatives such as its Brockville satellite clinic and enormous endeavours such as the drive-through clinics.
The Te Kaika journey has been an exciting one so far, the future looks bright, and Dunedin is by far the better for it.