New contract for Maori health provider a boost

Looking forward to further empowering the Maori community are Uruuruwhenua Health team members ...
Looking forward to further empowering the Maori community are Uruuruwhenua Health team members (from left) Ricky Carr, Alva Bennett, Raewyn Cochrane and Donna Grace. PHOTO: PAM JONES
A new contract for Central Otago health provider Uruuruwhenua Health (UH) will help improve Maori health outcomes and complement existing projects, those at the coalface say.

The Whanau Ora contract would add to UH's existing Southern District Health Board (SDHB) Mauri Ora contract, UH manager Ricky Carr, of Alexandra, said.

The Whanau Ora project is a joint effort by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development and Te Puni Kokiri, an organisation that leads Maori public policy and advises the Government.

It integrated health, education and social services and put families/whanau at the centre of service delivery to improve outcomes for New Zealanders, Mr Carr said. UH would work with people as they developed a ``pathway plan'' and then help them navigate that pathway.

UH was focused on Maori health in the wider Central Otago area but was open to all in the community, he said.

It aimed to provide better access to healthcare for whanau, provided advocacy and education programmes and worked closely with other health agencies.

Under the Whanau Ora contract a new staff member, Alva Bennett, has been taken on at UH and he and UH team member Donna Grace were now acting as ``navigators'' through both UH contracts, Mr Carr said.

Some of UH's successful projects were a ``Mama and Pepi'' cooking and nutrition programme for families, a ``Feeling the Mauri'' fitness programme, and mobile health clinics for those in the shearing industry.

The shearing clinics were extremely valuable as they provided a huge range of services to many who were unable to visit health professionals because of the long hours they worked and the distances involved, Mr Carr said.

The clinics were held every year in September and February, when UH staff, about three doctors and 3 to 4 nurses travelled to shearing quarters and saw people for a range of issues including blood pressure checks, cervical smears, diabetes checks, asthma management, contraception, and mental health, drug and alcohol issues. Referrals and follow-up advice were also offered.

Mr Carr said achieving equity for Maori in rural Central Otago remained the goal of UH, and early intervention was an important part of UH's philosophy.

Some might question the need for a separate Maori health provider, but the focus was needed as long as Maori health outcomes remained as poor as they were, Mr Carr said.


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