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Taranaki Students Reducing Maori Health Inequalities

Taranaki Students Play a Part in Reducing Maori Health Inequalities

Maori students in Taranaki are gaining valuable work experience throughout secondary and tertiary education and in turn, contributing to the aim of decreasing Maori health inequalities thanks to the Why Ora employment pathways program run through Whakatipuranga Rima Rau (WRR) at Taranaki District Health Board.

Tanya Anaha, WhyOra Operations Manager said, “Taranaki Maori are disproportionately represented in negative health statistics, most specifically death from all cancers, lung cancer incidence, cardiovascular disease deaths, suicide, children’s oral health and respiratory disease deaths.”

“Research shows people are more inclined to use and respond better to services where there is cultural concordance between patients and their health care professionals. That is why the vision of WhyOra is for Taranaki to have a competent, skilled Maori health and disability workforce equal in proportion to its population who can provide culturally appropriate services. The goal is to identify and facilitate pathways to employment for Maori within the health and disability sector,” said Mrs Anaha.

Since its introduction in 2010, Why Ora has worked with over 300 of students from throughout Taranaki, introducing them to the range of roles within Taranaki’s health and disability sector and supporting them through employment pathways into those roles.

With financial support from TSB Community Trust, JR McKenzie Trust and Taranaki DHB, WhyOra is accessible to all secondary schools throughout Taranaki. Once students are involved in the program, support in working towards a role in healthcare and disability services continues throughout tertiary education.

Natasha Stanton, a first year student at Waikato University and member of Nga Rauru iwi, is currently on a five week internship at Taranaki DHB’s Health Protection Unit which was facilitated by the WhyOra program.

“I started in the Why Ora program as a year 13 student at (Waitara high school). Since then the staff at WRR have supported me in applying for courses and provided a number of opportunities to gain invaluable experience in public health services throughout my studies,” said Miss Stanton

During her internship, Miss Stanton is working on an environmental health project which aims to review the range of warning signs currently used by local authorities to warn people of the risk to water safety. Natasha has been travelling throughout the region visiting popular recreational water sites and determining whether signs were identifiable, and easy to understand from the general public’s perspective.

“Maori have a connection to water, particularly as a symbol of health and wellbeing, so it’s really great to have the opportunity to influence the way that connection is considered within Public Health policies and guidelines,” said Miss Stanton.

ENDS

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