Seymour Harris and Maryanne Gulliver attend the ‘Take Control of your Health’ course run by Tu Ora Compass Health. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Course graduates inspire future participants
Diabetes, heart conditions, chronic pain, and mental illness – a free course has helped Wairarapa people struggling with health problems to take control of their lives. LISA URBANI reports.

For 78-year-old Seymour Harris – also known as “Tane Mahuta Man” – it was as if “a new world opened everyday” when he attended one of the “Take Control of Your Health” free courses funded by Tu Ora Compass Health.

Seymour had been struggling with Type 2 diabetes and depression for many years, and participating in the June course at Te Rangimarie Marae, in Cole St helped him to have a renewed “respect for himself and others”, and he found the whole experience to be “pretty emotional.”

Course facilitator Di Bailey.

Initially, he felt shy, but then he began to open up and share some of the difficult things he had experienced in his life, and learned to communicate better – particularly with health professionals – so he could understand his illness more, and have strategies to cope with it.

“The tautoko [Maori for ‘support’] in the group was phenomenal”, he said.

“When I got my certificate, I felt so humbled – the rest of the group accepted me for who I am, and I respected them.”

Kath Tomlinson, senior health adviser for Tū Ora Compass Health, who ran the course Seymour attended, said the courses worked well for people with a range of health conditions including, diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, headaches, difficulty with sleeping, and weight concerns.

During the courses, a range of self-management techniques are taught, including managing symptoms, better breathing, making informed treatment decisions, pain and fatigue management, relaxation techniques, medications, working with the healthcare system, nutrition, problem solving, weight management, and healthy eating.

Maryanne Gulliver, 38, from Carterton, also suffers from Type 2 diabetes and wanted to get more information on how to manage it.

She was finding it hard going and also felt depressed, but finding out on the course that she wasn’t alone helped her immensely, and the drawing up of an action plan for each week, set goals for her to accomplish, which she found very helpful.

Admitting that she hadn’t wanted to go at first, Maryanne said, “it’s something I’ll always benefit from and I am so proud of myself for doing it”.

It was also inspirational for her family, and now she feels she knows how to eat healthily, handle her medication and how to ask for help when she needs it.

Tu Ora Compass Health has 12 trained course facilitators and they each run at least one course a year.

Kath said all facilitators also had a long-term health condition, “so participants don’t feel like their health needs are misunderstood because the course leaders also experience ongoing health struggles”.

Kiwa Mitchell of Martinborough also knows the value of attending the courses.

At one point, she weighed more than 120kg, a legacy from her upbringing where large portions were normal.

She too was diabetic, and was cautioned by a doctor, that she would end up in a wheelchair.

Of her 16 siblings, only four remained, the others having succumbed to the family history of diabetes and heart problems.

For her, it was about “a whole new world of education, managing my food, and exercise, and trying new experiences, like tai chi and line-dancing and pilates”.

She also made new friends and in making a “lifestyle change”, she lost 62kg and has never looked back, eventually becoming a facilitator of the courses herself.

“For me, it’s a way of life and I won’t go back, I am still diabetic but haven’t had insulin for several years.

“It’s an amazing course if people take it seriously, I promote it to everyone and people can see the results.”

People can contact Tū ora Compass Health and register for courses and are welcome to bring a friend or a support person.

Upcoming course dates are Tuesdays July 21 to September 1, 12.30-3pm, at Reap House Masterton; Mondays October 12 to November 23, 12.30-3pm, at the Court House Carterton; or Thursdays October 22 to December 3, 5.30-8pm, at St Andrews Church Greytown.

  • To register for a course, contact Tū Ora Compass Health on smcourse@tuora.org.nz or 06 261 8306.