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Kaiawhina helps improve the health of Maori

Kaiawhina helps improve the health of West Coast Māori

Almost a third more West Coast Māori in the Buller region are enrolled at doctors’ surgeries thanks to the efforts of a kaiawhina, or helper/navigator. Rehia MacDonald has spent months getting to know whānau in the Buller region, encouraging them to join the West Coast Primary Health Organisation (PHO).

The project has earned West Coast PHO a finalist’s place in the 2008 New Zealand Health Innovation Awards (HIA) where it will compete against 19 other finalists, one of which is also from the West Coast

The West Coast PHO employed Rehia because they wanted to address inequalities in the numbers of Māori registered with them. Māori account for nine percent of people living in the region, and just over half of them were enrolled with the PHO. Health indicators showed Māori were not engaged with any health service and not doing as well as non-Māori and were missing out on such things as vaccinations and screening.

Rehia, who is herself Māori, started in February 2007, and has seen the number of Māori and Pacific peoples enrolled in the PHO in her district rise by 165.

As part of her role, she has helped eight Māori access the Care Plus programme which provides a greater amount of subsidised care for conditions like diabetes or heart disease. She has made over 180 home visits, assisted more than 150 people to attend doctors’ appointments, and enabled 49 children to be immunised.

The Chief Executive of West Coast PHO Andrea Baker says, “We took a grass roots approach in our efforts to improve the health of Māori in the Buller region. Rehia has done a fantastic job in getting to know local whānau and helping them in a number of ways.”

The HIA are a joint endeavour of the Ministry of Health and ACC. They were started in 2003 to recognise individuals and organisations that have developed new and innovative approaches to delivering better health services.

Further information about the HIA is available online at

This year’s HIA winners will be announced at the expo and gala dinner held on 4 November at the Wellington Town Hall.


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