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Health Promotion leader honoured

The Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand’s (HPF) Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi has received the 2019 Public Health Champion Award of the Public Health Association of New Zealand (PHANZ).

Each year the PHANZ honours an individual's or group's contribution to public health action through its prestigious public health awards, Public Health Champion and Tū Rangatira mō te Ora.

The Public Health Champion Award is to recognise and highlight the outstanding contribution of an individual to public health. The recipient is someone working in public health who has focused on the PHANZ’s priorities in the past year; and/or has made a significant and ongoing contribution to public health over many years.

Mr Tu’itahi was presented with the award at a ceremony which was attended by his family and HPF staff in Auckland last week.

PHANZ CEO Prudence Stone said public health in New Zealand was blessed with champions of very high caliber, so a rigorous process had been developed for presiding over the nominations.

“It was the combination of Sione’s very recent accomplishments this year as Convenor for IUHPE, with the sheer longevity of his dedication to public health education and training over many years as director of HPF, as well as his unique capability as a Pacific leader, to shine a spotlight on public health issues among Pacific communities in New Zealand, that stood Sione apart from the other finalists,” said Ms Stone.

“His contribution to public health, both very recently and over decades, has been consistent and singular in making a real difference.”

Mr Tu’itahi thanked the PHA for the honour, as well as his colleagues and his family, adding that the award reflected the dedication and commitment of all those who supported and worked closely with him.

The award demonstrated the value of collaborative, ethical leadership of those leaders who stood for justice and equity for all, and who had opened doors for him and others he said.

“Were it not for them … I would not be where I am today,” he said.

Mr Tu’itahi said HPF’s work was challenging, but achievable and rewarding because the organisation’s constitution was grounded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi).

“This means that the organisational structure of HPF, from governance to staff is fully informed by the articles, the spirit and the intent of the Treaty."

Mr Tu’itahi stressed the urgent need for strong governance and good leadership in New Zealand’s health sector.

“Today in New Zealand and the world, we have the knowledge and resources; what is needed is courageous, collaborative leadership for all…”

For the last 25 years, Mr Tu’itahi was instrumental in leading initiatives in the education and health sectors that contribute not only to the wellbeing of Pacific peoples but also to the whole country. For example, from 1998 to 2012, he initiated and co-led the development of Pacific capacity at Massey University. During the same period, he was the first Pacific Manager at the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, the public health arm of the Auckland District Health Board, building its Pacific capacity.

Later, he built the Pacific capacity of the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand (HPF) before he became its Executive Director in 2012. Sione is a member of the global board of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE).

Last April he was co-chair of the World Conference on Health Promotion that was co-hosted by HPF and IUHPE in Rotorua. The event was the biggest public health conference in New Zealand with more than 1000 delegates from all five continents attending.

He is also the author of academic papers and books in health and education, as well as Tongan Indigenous knowledge.

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