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Whānau Ora Plays Key Role In Engaging Māori In COVID-19 Immunisation Programme

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu is prepared to respond to the urgent need to ensure Māori communities participate in the COVID-19 immunisation programme. Pouārahi Helen Leahy says that the Whānau Ora commissioning role can play a crucial role in engaging these communities, and providing consistent and accurate messaging about the vaccines.

The effort to ensure whānau understand the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine comes in response to a survey conducted late last year by Horizon Research, which gauged public attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines and expected levels of uptake. Their findings indicated that there will be lower uptake in Māori and Pasfika communities, who have less confidence in the safety and quality of the vaccine and its protection.

“The effectiveness of the Whānau Ora approach when it comes to engaging with Māori whānau is realised in the reach across communities,” says Ms Leahy. “Just last year, reports into the Whānau Ora response to COVID-19 found that it contributed to significantly lower rates of infection amongst Māori than predicted.”

Ms Leahy believes that Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu is well-placed to communicate accurate and relevant information to Māori communities in the South Island that will give them the confidence to make the right decision for their whānau.

“The Whānau Ora model is about mana motuhake. We know that if whānau are equipped with accurate information from trusted sources, they have the ability to make their own decisions,” says Ms Leahy. “That is where we come in – Whānau Ora is a bridge between government and district health boards, and whānau.”

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu Chair Tā Mark Solomon says that it is especially important to combat misinformation circulating about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Māori have endured disparities in treatment and experience in the mainstream healthcare system for too long. Unfortunately this has led to mistrust, and in such an environment, misinformation and conspiracy theories about this vaccine pose a risk,” says Tā Mark. “Māori have always been innovative and quick to adapt to new technologies – particularly when it comes to protecting our whānau. We want to make sure that whānau have access to reliable information that helps them understand the vaccine is a positive choice.”

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