Whaiora Pae Ora team members, Carol Rimene, Serena Karaitiana, Kuini de la Mare, and Marlene Whaanga-Dean. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Hayley Gastmeier

A small group of passionate Wairarapa wahine are helping whanau improve their health and well-being.

The Pae Ora team at Whaiora are working with about 90 families, from Cape Palliser to Mt Bruce, to understand and take control of their own health conditions.

Coming from a tikanga Māori perspective, the team visit whanau in their own homes to educate them about healthy lifestyles for themselves and their families.

Community health worker Marlene Whaanga-Dean said the programme was all about “breaking down barriers” to make the health system more accessible.

The service is offered at no cost to the clients.

Wairarapa had a high needs population of Māori and Pacific Islanders, with literacy, inequality, and transport being huge barriers for people, Marlene said.

“Pae ora means healthy futures – that’s what we do, we’re improving family health outcomes.

“We work with everyone in the whanau.”

The team is made up of three community health workers, a registered nurse, and a registered nutritionist.

The key focus of their mahi, or work, is long-term health issues, such as diabetes, minor skin conditions like eczema, heart health, mobility, dental, and healthy eating.

“We work face to face, in their homes, making sure they’ve got all they need … we’re great navigators, if we can’t do it ourselves, we’ll find services who can help – we have very strong networks,” Marlene said.

This is backed up on the Ministry of Health website: “Pae Ora encourages everyone in the health and disability sector to work collaboratively, to think beyond narrow definitions of health, and to provide high-quality and effective services.”

Community health worker Serena Karaitiana said Wairarapa’s Pae Ora team brought a diverse range of expertise to the table, with backgrounds from the public, mental health, and social sectors.

“We’re trained in a broad range of areas, so all that knowledge we bring together.”

Serena said improving conditions and reducing hospitalisation was a priority of the team.

Practice nurse Kuini de la Mare offers clinical support.

She said the aim was to upskill clients’ knowledge about their specific conditions, and then give them the tools and encouragement they needed to manage it themselves.

Kuini said the traditional medical model of care hadn’t worked for everyone, and Pae Ora was filling the gaps.

She said the programme took a holistic approach, recognising that social well-being, mental and emotional well-being, physical well-being, and spiritual well-being were all important for a good quality of life and were like the four walls of a house.

“If one area is falling down, then everything is going to be compromised.”

The Pae Ora team also advocate for clients, helping them with travel arrangements or accompany them to Work and Income appointments and doctor visits.

Serena said it was about making life easier for people.

“If they have other social issues, like housing, we can help them with that too.”

Community health worker Carol Rimene said the team helped clients come up with a set of goals, and then created steps to achieve them.

“Depending on those goals, if they’re really serious, we’ll be working with them every week until that goal has been met.”

Support workers will work with clients until they feel they’ve reached their goals.

The Pae Ora team agreed that their work was rewarding and there were many success stories from families who had taken advantage of the service.

“Intervention and prevention is really the name of our game,” Marlene said.

People can self-refer to Pae Ora.

To find out more call 0800 494 246.