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Turning The Tide Of Health Reforms By Taitamariki For Taitamariki In Te Hiku Ō Te Ika

A sea change bringing better health and wellbeing outcomes for Far North taitamariki is on the horizon as a group of young leaders at the forefront of health reforms reconvenes for 2024.

Since last August, He Taura – a rangatahi leadership group of 12 young people – has been meeting under the mentorship of The Moko Foundation to scope and design hauora solutions for taitamariki living in the area extending from north Hokianga to Doubtless Bay to Cape Reinga.

The group is part of the wider Taikorihi Locality initiative – one of several population health prototypes nationwide set up under the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act 2022 to influence and inform the future investment of public health in New Zealand.

The Moko Foundation Health Research Co-Ordinator Conor Watene O’Sullivan says the group underwent an eight-week design sprint last year, which involved surveying over 100 of their peers on accessibility to health care, mental health supports and suggestions for improved services in Te Hiku.

Analysis of the results, coupled with previous taitamariki voice, has seen the group’s recommendations accepted by Te Whatu Ora to roll out three initiatives across Te Hiku this year that will address the accessibility and availability of taitamariki sports, rangatahi leadership development and health services in kura kaupapa Māori.

Conor says that the opportunity for Te Hiku communities and providers to work more closely with Te Whatu Ora and deliver locally designed solutions under Taikorihi is empowering youth voice to be heard amidst the noise of the current health landscape.

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“We no longer see this top-down approach, whereby Ministry and the government would set the agenda and allocate the funding that traditionally would have gone to DHBs or PHOs or other agencies, with our providers and whānau at the bottom reacting to the wider system.

With a mechanism like Taikorihi, we can now collect the whānau voice, we can set the agenda, and we can leverage the top hierarchical policy makers to respond to the needs of our whānau,” Conor says.

The initiatives are currently in varying stages of development, and the Taikorihi model will see He Taura work with lead Te Hiku contract providers to deliver initiatives this year.

The Moko Foundation will be delivering a Rangatahi Leadership and Mentorship programme with most of last year’s He Taura members and the addition of a few more. The programme aims to build on what has already been established within the group and will see them exposed to more networking and personal and professional development opportunities.

Addressing the participation rates of young people in sports will be the priority outcome of the Rangatahi Sports and Wellbeing Programme, being led out by Native Sports.

He Taura member Mereana Thomas (19) says young people in Te Hiku benefit most from participating in physical exercise and holistic lifestyles, but the positive outcomes don’t stop in the immediate term.

“In Te Hiku there are not a lot of opportunities here and that’s what our rangatahi are asking for. Access to structured sports programmes, sports days, sports facilities, more sports in school; this leads into sports careers which give you skill development, mentorship, and exposure to higher level competitions,” she says.

The final initiative to be piloted is Hauora in Kura – a project to re-introduce health services into kura kaupapa Māori with Navilluso Medical.

He Taura member Karangatai Piripi (20) has experienced education in kura kaupapa Māori, mainstream education and is now studying towards a degree in nursing with NorthTec in Whangārei.

She says, in hindsight, that the health education she engaged in across all education systems differed considerably.

“What we have is a lot of rangatahi at school who are wanting to make good choices and informed health decisions but don’t have the knowledge, don’t have the resources, and don’t know who to ask for support.

The reason for coming up with this school programme was to facilitate an environment where we connect rangatahi to support networks, including multi-disciplinary approaches on a range of matters,” Karangatai says.

Taikorihi Programme Manager JJ Ripikoi says the fact that He Taura was able to canvas over 100 peers over a brief period and analyse the data to arrive at three initiatives to test is a sign of the times.

“We can’t afford to lose time. The reason Taikorihi chose to focus on initiatives that addressed the mental wellness of taitamariki in Te Hiku is because our whānau told us it was a matter of urgency.

These three initiatives are designed by young people for young people. I think they will go a long way towards establishing some preventative measures we can build on in Te Hiku that will help turn the tide towards better health outcomes for our whānau,” JJ says.


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