Supporting Whānau to live in healthy contexts - Our Population Health 'Dream Team'

6 August 2018

On the first floor in the Tangata Rite Building on Peel Street, we are invited to sit in on the end of our population health team’s meeting while we wait to chat to the team.

As reluctant as we were to intrude on their team meeting, it soon became obvious the discussion was purely focussed on community health projects and their effectiveness in our rohe. We felt inspired, as if anyone from our rohe could have sat in on that meeting and felt the same way. Helen Moore, population health administrator coined it perfectly as she soon commented ‘this team is a perfect example of our WAKA values, and this culture reflects directly in our work with the community’.

Soon into the interview, we realise there are very different roles in this team and everyone is from different backgrounds, which all complement each other – Health Promotion Advisors, Health Protection Officers, and Medical Officers of Health. Our four Health Promotion Advisors are Petra Hape, Aporina Chapman, Rapoia Brightwell and Wanita Tuwairua-Brown, and their work is to enable and encourage people to increase control over their health, to increase health education allowing them to make healthy lifestyle choices. Within this team, focuses are shared amongst initiatives such as the workwell programme, smoking cessation, alcohol, health promoting schools, workplaces and youth resilience, to name a few.

An holistic, Te Ao Māori approach and a Māori-responsive health service resonates among the team. When asked what motivates her every day, Petra responded “making a difference in the health of Māori is my passion”, with Aporina adding “a huge focus for us is wrapping around Māori community health initiatives and supporting them to create a sustainable community.” An holistic approach to health means supporting our hapū mothers, our pēpe and our tamariki to live in healthy contexts and develop healthy behaviours early in life, involving whanau members and paving the way for a healthy future.

Another key component of the population health team are our Health Protection Officers (HPOs). Cyrena Bennett and Cathy Walker are involved in preventing and controlling the spread of communicable diseases. They investigate the cause of infectious diseases, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and Meningitis, and decide on the best course of action. Intervention, which can include issuing public health warnings, is needed when public health and safety is compromised. Cathy said “We could be trapping mosquitoes at the port today, and tomorrow inspecting cruise ships, no two days are the same, and that’s what is magic about our jobs.”

Medical Officers of Health Dr Margot McLean, Dr Anura Jayasinghe and Dr Bruce Duncan are also part of the population health team and work closely with our Health Protection Officers and Health Promoters. They are public health physicians (doctors) who specialise in the health of groups or whole communities rather than working on individual healthcare, improving, protecting and promoting the health of the population.

Operations Manager, Kuini Puketapu commented that the population health role involves constantly working in the background to ensure the continuum of care in our community, from pre-natal health throughout the whole spectrum of life. Kuini described their role as highly community connected, ‘low-tech and long term’ strategies which support the health aspirations of our community. Kuini gave an example of Hauora Tairawhiti’s strategy of a connected process to eradicate Hepatitis C in our rohe which requires constant, ongoing messaging and community partnerships.

Kuini also went on to comment that starting a career in population health requires the ability to create strong, long lasting relationships in our community and the drive to make a difference in the health of our rohe, especially with Māori.

To be successful in this role you will need to be a self-starter, goal orientated, innovative, passionate about improving population health, enjoy developing effective relationships and working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders. Supporting communities of whānau to realise their own solutions to improving equity in their health and wellbeing is a key priority and therefore experience in this area would be an advantage.   

If you have a positive attitude, work well in teams, are innovative and have the confidence to hit the ground running, then we want to talk to you.

To see current vacancies, click here