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If it weren’t for your gumboots

Media Statement

Friday 30 November 2012

If it weren’t for your gumboots!

Gumboot wearing Maori men might just be the hardest people to persuade to have a health check, and Motu DoC ranger Joe Waikari is no exception.

The 39-year-old Department of Conservation ranger is happiest when detecting and trapping stoat, ferret and possums. He’s always in the bush, never out of his gumboots, and never used to give his health much thought.

But this month he and 53 other Maori men aged over 30 years were plucked out of the crowds of people competing in, and watching, the Tu Marae series of duathlons run by Turanga Health.

Mr Waikari, Ngati Porou, had just biked 20 kilometers for his whanau team in his gumboots, when he was asked by a Turanga Health nurse if he wanted a health check. “I was curious I suppose,” said Mr Waikari, who had recently given up smoking. “So I said yes.”

Mr Waikari’s health check revealed he was relatively well, but seven out of the 54 men checked were considered at high risk of a heart attack or stroke and were referred to their own GP. Turanga Health also stepped up to help them address their diet, physical activity and other lifestyle issues.

Event coordinator Dallas Poi said Tu Marae introduced whanau to multisport using marae-to-marae routes, and promoted healthy living by easing up on the drink, losing the cigarettes, and looking after your heart.

“We used the event to connect whanau back to their marae, but as well as that, we gave them the chance to learn more about their weight, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, exercise, and diet.”

“We targeted the health checks to Maori men over 30 because managing a chronic condition sometimes ends up on the backburner for them. We want to help them take control of long term health problems before the problems take control of them.”

The first Tu Marae duathlon in August went from Whatatutu to Te Karaka. The second in September was from Waituhi to Patutahi and the third in October covered Muriwai and Manutuke. The last race went from Waiherere to Te Kuri a Tuatai Marae in Gisborne.
Ms Poi said the offer of a heart check, known as a cardiovascular disease risk assessment, was made all the more acceptable because they could have it right there, right then, in a marae they felt familiar with. “A lot of them also had their wife, or daughter, or sister nagging them to do it!”

Mr Waikari and his family took part in all four Tu Marae duathlons with their three children and his wife’s parents. “That was a good part for me, having Nan and Grandpa with us, and our kids,” says Mr Waikari.

He credits his nine-year-old daughter Pagan’s suggestion he quit smoking last year as the catalyst for thinking about his health and entering Tu Marae. “Others had told me to give up the smokes, but it was her. When she said it to me something clicked.”

Unfortunately his children’s nagging had no bearing at all on his choice of footwear for Tu Marae and he cycled every leg in his trademark Red Band gumboots. He says they are comfy and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

“We don’t have to be the fastest or the slimmest-looking team. We did it at our own pace, how we wanted, and with the family, that was the highlight for me.”

© Scoop Media

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