The First Step in Improved Health

Tuesday, 16 May, 2017

In an unprecedented move, five health-promoting organisations in Canterbury have taken a collaborative approach to help improve the lives of the region's Pacific Communities through their churches.

The initiative, known as the ‘Tutupu Project,’ has been widely welcomed.

Seven churches from around Christchurch and as far afield as Ashburton and West Melton have begun participating in a nine-month commitment to educate and empower nominated health champions, who will then take that information back to the churches and encourage each congregation to benefit from their learnings.

“I wanted to be involved in the Tutupu Project because this is an opportunity for me to learn and gather information about health, so I can then pass on to my family, church family and community,” says Teuila Saafi, Youth Leader of Christchurch’s Tongan Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Pegasus Health, Community and Public Health, Rural Canterbury PHO, Etu Pasifika and Healthy Families Christchurch will mentor the Church Champions in a range of topics such as nutrition, exercise and ways to improve their health literacy, including accessing doctors and further understanding the health system.

Pegasus Health’s Pacific Health Manager and Project Lead, Maria Pasene explains: "The Health Champions will attend health education sessions that will expand their knowledge about nutrition and the importance of physical activity with a particular focus on children and young people. We have discussed the ways in which Pacific peoples can help clinicians to assist them in their health journey. This includes pushing past their natural shyness, speaking up and providing important information at visits to the GP and hospital and asking questions when they aren’t sure about what’s being discussed. It’s important to assert our needs so that others can better provide services to improve our communities’ health."

“(I’m impressed) by the fact that there are people and organisations out there that want to help us as Pacific Peoples by providing resources and facilitating such projects, as this will better equip us to promote healthy lifestyles to our people,” says Saafi.

The teaching from the workshops and mentoring is then woven into church services. “I think this is important because 'health is wealth.' Since health is one of the major issues our people are facing here in New Zealand, it is of great interest to find new ways of getting the message through to our beloved people through this project,” Saafi adds.

Pasene agrees. “Pacific communities are at a point where they see themselves as part of the solution rather than the problem. They are willing to investigate ways to improve the health of their families and communities. We have the ability to link them to resources and services that will work with them in a way that makes sense like church environments where Pacific peoples naturally connect, support and communicate with each other.”


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