Conference tackles health and disability challenges

The Pacific Island community aspiration to eliminate negative health indicators was addressed at the Cook Islands Health and Disability Conference held recently in South Auckland.

CIHNA Conference 2016 066The annual conference hosted by the Cook Islands Health Network Association (CIHNA) which addressed health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular and rheumatic fever to name a few was held for families who are demanding results, better information and access to a range of services to cater for their needs.

“If we are to build healthy families and healthy communities for the future, we need to discuss these in a forum that actively nurtures and involves all key people and organisations in achieving optimum levels of health from a Pacific perspective,” says Dr Joe Williams, President of the Cook Islands Health Network Association and patron of the Pasifika Medical Association. 

The Cook Island community hosts this conference every year to act as a platform to discuss advances in health care and technology, and openly discuss the challenges of chronic illnesses.

“The conference provides a forum to openly discuss health issues affecting our Cook Island community and provides opportunities for our families and key organisations to have their voices heard in all parts of the health sector,” says Dr Williams.

This year the conference focused on individuals with disabilities, including those with severe disabilities, to ensure they have the highest level of health and wellbeing possible.

There were many ideas shared during the course of the day and connections made and renewed.

The role of the CIHNA is to discuss and facilitate these connections to feed into the national Cook Islands plan.

“If we truly want to see our community prosperous in health, then the feedback from this conference is vital,” says Dr Williams.

“It gives us ideas and some great practical examples of the struggles within our families and community and the opportunity to hear from some of our people who are experts in various areas of health, about their work and our collective vision for improving the health and wellbeing of our Cook Island community and Pacific people overall.”

Dr Williams is a staunch advocate of the health status of Cook Island and Pasifika people and praised the Whānau Ora programme as an example of providing care and specifically for whanau and families wellbeing.

“It recognises the Pacific principle of a collective rather than focussing on individuals and we work that way to remind our communities that it takes a collective effort for a positive change. It further empowers our families to do what they are there to do – and that is take care of each other.”

“It highlights the choices made by our families to define their own aspirations, to chart their own pathways either in health, education, economic, culture or leadership, and to determine their own future.”

“We see our role in CIHNA as a facilitator for our community, enabling them to voice their opinions, support our families and to empower them to be able to achieve those dreams.”

“It is a worthy aspiration for the conference to champion whānau wellbeing,” says Dr Williams.

At the conference, Dr Kiki Maoate ONZM, FRACS was awarded with the CIHNA Kumete Award in recognition of his services to the Cook Islands community and families.

“Kiki is one of our champions and he has demonstrated excellence in leadership, innovation, and his professionalism and contribution to health which makes a huge impact within the Cook Island families he serves and the wider community of Aotearoa,” says Dr Williams.

Kiki; President of the Pasifika Medical Association and Chair of the Pasifika Futures Board says he is humbled to be the recipient.

“I am extremely honoured and grateful to be the recipient of this award. This award recognises the amazing work our communities do and I am humbled to serve my Cook Island community,” says Mr Maoate.

It was a proud moment.

A similar award was presented to Kiki’s father, the late Sir Terepai Maoate for his contribution to healthcare at the 2012 conference.

Dr Williams acknowledged the speakers and everyone who participated in the conference and he looks forward to building on the vision ‘Turama 2020’, as a collective to tackle challenges in healthcare and to assess the root causes of these issues so the Cook Island community can further engage in change across a range of fronts.