A collaborative, community-led health and social service is making a difference in Rotorua’s Eastside community, an area where high levels of deprivation and inequity mean many whānau experience complex, often multi-generational health and social support needs.
Nearly five years ago there were high numbers of whānau from the Eastside going to the hospital emergency department for issues that could have been prevented with better access to primary health care. Knowing that prevention is key to disrupting repeating patterns of poor health and addressing inequities, Tatau Pounamu Collective (TPC) and Lakes District Health Board collaborated with Primary Health Care Limited practice Owhata Medical Centre and the Mokoia Community Association (MCA) to create the Piripoho nurse service. Piripoho is an initiative out of TPC’s Hunga Ao Strategy (Wellness Strategy) and it was through approaches by TPC that funding was obtained to employ the Piripoho nurse.
Piripoho is a name that reflects the love, embrace, nurturing and protection that a mother (or father) provides to their pēpi (baby). Originally focused on the health and wellbeing of whānau with tamariki aged 0-18 years old, and hapū māmā (pregnant women), the Piripoho nurse is based at the Owhata Medical Centre. After seeing many needs that were beyond health services, the Piripoho navigator role was established at the Mokoia Community Association in 2017. This was followed in 2019 with a part-time Piripoho kaiawhina, providing systems and administrative support to the nurse and navigator from Owhata.
The collaborative action taken by MCA, Pinnacle (through Owhata Medical Centre), Tatau Pounamu Collective, Ministry of Social Development and Lakes District Health Board to establish Piripoho Services is having an impact. Free, accessible health care and social services are consistently supporting the Eastside community, with a focus on prevention and changing patterns of poor health within whānau.
Piripoho nurse Leesa King says, “The beauty of this service is the relationships we have with individuals, whānau, schools, hapū and iwi in the community. We can see trends and things going on and respond quickly in a way that is comfortable and appropriate for them.”
From support for rangatahi experiencing their first mate wahine (menstrual period), to reducing DNAs (did not attends) at medical appointments, running community hauora days and providing support to reduce family harm, Leesa and the team have a wide-ranging workload.
“We run nurse clinics weekly, doing health checks on tamariki at 12 different early childhood education centres, and have a really good relationship with the schools,” says Leesa.
Standing orders give Leesa the ability to give out medication for common childhood illnesses, often sore throats or impetigo. “I can talk to the parents on the phone, then take the medication to the house for them to use. They’ll call me on the weekends instead of going to the emergency room, or I can go to them after work hours.”
Leesa visits homes with the Piripoho navigator or kaiawhina, where they notice other things whānau need help with – cold, damp housing, or no kai on the table. The navigator can then support whānau to navigate social services, providing up-to-date information and resources, in-home visits or transport to appointments, and referrals to other services. The Piripoho kaiawhina works two days a week to assist, although Leesa says funding to increase the kaiawhina hours would be hugely helpful.
“It’s a fun job too. We run koeke clinics up at the marae every fortnight to do blood pressure checks on our elders and anything else they need – we do their nails and have a bit of a korero.
“Initiatives like kete aroha bring the community together. Lots of people wanted to help others, so we provided a platform for them to do so. We supplied kete for our community to fill with goodies and return. We then organised a kete aroha day at one of our local schools where hanakoko (Santa) handed them out to tamariki. Last year we were aiming for 80 packs to give out and instead had close to 300. It was awesome and we’re starting it again in October.”
There is always more work to be done, and more opportunities to find time and resources for. In particular, Leesa is seeing the impact of COVID-19 in the community. “There’s a lot of need out there, people losing jobs and whānau becoming homeless because overseas owners of rental houses are coming home.”
It’s all mahi that feeds into the TPC vision of ‘collectively nurturing our futures’. Piripoho Services is actively working towards the goal that every child living in the eastside of Rotorua is healthy, safe and empowered to reach their full potential.