The power of family

Penina and
Penina and David

For some people making big changes in their lives can be sparked off by a health event.  For others, it’s about looking at the bigger picture.

For 37-year-old Penina, her motivation to improve her health was spurred on by her son.  As a single mum whose health was spiralling out of control, she suddenly woke up one morning and thought who would look after her son if she wasn’t around.  Penina had a powerful vision to change her life, for the better.  This is her story.

Thinking back, chronic health issues seemed to run in the family.  My mum and dad died quite young due to complications from poor health, and I think at that time there just wasn’t the help available or the resources to steer them in a healthier direction.  For example there weren’t campaigns like CM Health’s Manaaki Hauora – Supporting Wellness Campaign and there wasn’t much in the community that enabled self-management support.  After mum and dad died I was brought up by the “local community.”  It’s true when they say it takes a whole village to raise a child, and in my case I had five mums and seven dads.  I didn’t want for anything.

In my later years, I was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.  This introduced me to a world of medications, blood tests and numerous doctor appointments.  Needless to say I didn’t manage my condition well in those early days and as a consequence suffered two minor strokes. The impact this had on my family, my health and my life was immense.  I missed days off work, lost income, put on weight and found it hard to make ends meet financially.  It was also hard socially, as my condition made it hard to attend social outings and celebrations.  I began to lose hope that I would ever get off this roller coaster.

What made me see the light was my wonderful 12-year-old son.  If I wanted to see him grow up, I needed to make some big changes.  With my son’s support and encouragement, I was on a mission to walk a different path from my parents and become healthy and well again.

What I did learn in those early days is that you can’t change your life on your own.   You need the support from friends, family and health professionals who can point you in the right direction regarding the care and support you need to make a whole lifestyle change.  I’m testament to the fact that if you have the right tools and support to manage your condition, you can turn your life around, for the better.  I was lucky to have the support of the Lotu Moui Programme in my local Parish.  I can’t emphasise enough how important it was to have help in the community where you live.  This was pivotal to my healthcare journey.

Fast forward to today and I’m enjoying my life and managing my condition well, through the support in my community.  I’m now going to boot camp and boxing with my son, have lost weight and am back to my old social and confident self.  When I think back, I never thought I’d be able to celebrate some of the milestones I have, such as achieving a post-graduate degree in education.

PeninaInstead of being a passive observer in my life I’m now an active participant, and I am making my contribution back to “the local village” through the Pacific FME (Pacific FanauOla Management Education) project.  This project, supported by the Manaaki Hauora- Supporting Wellness Campaign aims to improve health literacy within families and households so people have the knowledge and confidence to access self-management support and resources in their community.   For further information about the campaign click here.

Penina and Ron


Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

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