In a previous blog, I spoke about Dr Lance O’Sullivan, who is working in the health equity area. Helping to support that work is an exciting project called Kootuitui ki Papakura, which is tackling the issue of equity head on by helping the children of Papakura to have the same opportunities as other children in New Zealand.
Developed in conjunction with Kidz First Children’s Hospital, Kootuitui ki Papakura brings together primary schools, an intermediate school, Papakura High School and corporate organisations – most notably Westpac, the community itself, community trusts, teachers, health care staff, and many more.
Addressing three areas – health, homes and education, the programme has seen a massive commitment from many people.
In the education area, children have gone from whiteboards into the digital space – courtesy of the tried and tested Manaiakalani Programme, already widely adopted in other areas of Auckland. It has been a huge jump for the children, and an even bigger one for teaching staff, who have had to master the technology while learning how to use it to its fullest as a teaching tool.
It was a brave move from the schools involved. Without exception they stood with their communities against the doubters, who said it could never work, it was too much for their kids, and that parents would never support it.
But the educationalists stood firm. If their kids had the same chances when it came to health and housing, and could access learning technology, they’d succeed.
Months into Kootuitui ki Papakura, significant numbers of parents are supporting their kids using Chrome Books at school and at home. Pam Tregonning Executive Director of the Middlemore Foundation said one mother told her education was the path to the future for her children, and she would do everything in her power to ensure her daughters could walk that path.
In the health area, funding under the scheme is provided for a school nurse and whaanau worker. Health issues are identified, treated and followed-up. The nurses are working closely with parents and the schools to understand underlying issues too, like a poor diet, attendance, a lack of confidence and bruises that shouldn’t be there.
Simple problems, such as a lack of warm clothing, pyjamas or bedding are addressed quickly, not with case conferences or referrals, but with toothbrushes, soap, blankets and a smile and word of encouragement.
Not surprisingly, the housing part of the three-pronged plan is proving difficult. We had always thought well-insulated, warm and dry properties would help solve some of our health problems, and while that’s undoubtedly true, what do you do when you come across overcrowding and there are no extra homes to be found to ease it?
What did hearten me is that people like Pam and Lance, the management of Westpac, the mum who was determined her kids would have the very best she could give, the teachers, principals and health nurses, and most of all the children themselves who have grasped the opportunity, are proof that health equity is worth fighting for.
We sometimes fall into the trap of surrounding simple ideas with complex language. All we are talking about is giving the children of Papakura a fair go and access to tools that will enable that. That’s what will deliver a good start in life, an education, and the chance to be healthy.
If we go down this path, I believe those children, and many more we can reach, will fulfil their potential and do outstanding things.
For further information on Kootuitui ki Papakura go to the Middlemore Foundation website