Asthma Foundation Annual Conference
Asthma Foundation Annual Conference
Intercontinental Hotel, Wellington
E nga rangatira, e nga iwi kua huihui nei, mai i nga topito o te ao, tena koutou katoa.
Tena korua nga kaumatua Sam korua ko June Jackson – nga mana whenua o tenei rohe. You are forever gracious hosts in your rohe.
E te iwi e huihui nei ki te manaaki i te karanga o te ra, tena hoki koutou.
I want to also mihi to Richard Wallace for our mihi whakatau.
I acknowledge the leadership of Professor Ian Town – the chair of the Asthma Foundation Board - Board members and Chief Executive Angela Francis and her team.
I am also proud to mihi to the chairperson of the Maori Reference Group, Janice Kuka and the people she has gathered around her to ensure that the direction in which you are heading is one in which tangata whenua are nurtured and protected.
Professor Sir Mason
Durie – I am always proud to be in your presence.
Conference delegates, speakers, and keynote presenters. Tena koutou katoa.
What lights up your world?
The other day I had one of those magic moments when my mokopuna burst into song.
Tihei Mauri Ora
Tihei Mauri Ora
Nga iwi o te motu e
Tu ake karangatia
Tu ake manaakitia
Nga iwi kia ora ra.
It was a memory in the making – this little boy, full of the joy of life, singing in utter exuberance and giving us all a lift in the process.
Those sorts of moments light up my world.
The words of that waiata provide a great platform for this conference.
Let there be life! To all the peoples of this land, stand forth and be welcomed - stand forth and be hosted - we greet you all.
Thank you for asking me to open your annual conference, Whakanui Oranga – Making a Difference.
And my high-spirited little mokopuna is as good a reason as any to think about the difference we are making - the commitment we are making to cherish the breath of life – Tihei Mauriora.
Every one of us in this room has a special reason to cherish the breath of life.
We may be researchers, community workers, health professionals, hauora Maori providers, educators or clinicians working in the area of respiratory health and medicine.
But our very first calling is as a son or daughter - a mother, father, aunty, uncle, a cousin, a grandparent.
And it is with the love of our families in my mind, that I want to share some ideas about respiratory health.
Next year, this organisation celebrates fifty golden years since you were first established as the Hutt Valley Asthma Society. Half a century later there are sixteen societies around the country affiliated to the Asthma Foundation.
So what have we learnt over the last fifty years that has made the difference?
So we begin by asking the questions.
Why is it that more than 100,000 children need medication to enable them to participate fully in life, to keep their asthma at bay? And of course we all know that in that group, tamariki Maori are one and a half times as likely to be taking asthma medication as non-Maori.
Is this a good thing? Should we be pleased that these statistics perhaps represent improved access to primary care for children?
I have mixed views on this.
What do these conferences do to make the difference that we must have?
I am aware that one of the goals of the Asthma Foundation is to reduce hospital admissions by 25 percent by the year 2025. Improving outcomes for children at risk of, or with asthma, by the provision of free doctor’s visits - including out of hours service, is a very important target and I fully endorse the aspiration to prevent children being admitted to hospital for asthma and respiratory infection.
And of course the year 2025 is a very important year to base your target around – that being the year the Government has committed to New Zealand being smokefree.
But I want to just go back to those numbers.
100,000 children and 389,000 adults take medication to control their asthma.
Quite simply, the scope of the challenge is enormous.
And here’s another number – 52. Asthma takes the lives of 52 New Zealanders every year.
It is an increasingly serious issue for far too many whanau.
It cannot and must not be taken lightly.
For over a decade I was one of those afflicted – my every day governed by my blue, orange, brown, and purple inhalers.
We must leave no stone unturned in our quest to address the risk of respiratory disease at a system and service level and most of all at a whanau level.
I am so pleased that this hui is being blessed with the wisdom and expertise of Professor Sir Mason Durie, Susan Reid, Dr Peter Gibson, Professor Innes Asher and Te Puea Winiata – who each in their own way will stimulate our thinking to consider new and bold approaches.
We have to think deeply – how are we addressing the environmental risk factors? Can we be confident that there is better access to primary care? What are we doing to strengthen our whanau to make their health a priority?
I am interested in learning more about your strategy – He piki te ha, he piki te pukahukahu, he piki te oranga - healthy start - healthy lungs - healthy lives – and your desire to connect with Whanau Ora collectives to implement that approach.
I commend you on your vision in recognising that whanau hold the key.
Whanau hold the key to change if they have the knowledge – and the health literacy – to understand what must be done to keep their asthma under control.
I am always amazed how frequently I have come across people who haven’t been given their driver’s licence to use an inhaler – in other words they don’t fully understand how to operate their life-saving device - who still believe that two puffs are enough and don’t realise you can have many more to help alleviate symptoms.
Of course the greatest thing we can do to achieve a healthy start for all our babies is to make our homes smokefree. And while we are there, we know that warmer, drier homes make all the difference to keeping us well.
One of the things I’ve been so proud of that the Maori Party has achieved through its relationship with the government, has been the dramatically increased numbers of what we might call healthy homes. We have, through this relationship, insulated the homes of tens of thousands of New Zealand families.
What we know is that improving housing benefits not only health but life expectancy and energy efficiency - it improves school attendance and it prevents hospitalisation.
Finally, I want to just mention the joint project between the Ministry of Health and the Asthma Foundation to improve health literacy amongst young Maori.
I think this is really important work – and significant because you have determined to focus the work in the context of whanau and their relationships with healthcare professionals.
These workers must be culturally competent for Maori and Pasifika families. The most powerful thing we can all do is to model the concept of being a whanau champion – a champion for life - a cheerleader for health and wellbeing.
And so we come back to all our mokopuna. How can we all work together to make the difference that our mokopuna need? How do we ensure that we practice what we preach - that we model healthy active lifestyles and that we aim not just to keep our kids out of hospital – but more to the point to keep all our families well.
I know we can find the way, to keep protecting and preserving that precious spark of life within us all.
Tena koutou katoa.