At the recent PMA Conference, Dr Robert Woonton from the Integrated Family Health Centre in Mt Wellington presented his work on the Whānau Ora programme and how their organisation works alongside vulnerable Pacific families in South Auckland.
Dr Woonton says the whole concept of Whānau Ora is to empower Pacific communities and extended families to support whānau within the community context rather than individuals in an institutional content.
“The overall aim of the Whānau Ora programme is for our Pacific families to be strong, self-sufficient, self-managing and taking control of their own lives.”
“The concept of Whānau Ora is not foreign in our Pacific culture. It is well embedded in all our Pacific cultures.”
“Our extended families include all our relatives, our neighbours, and even the whole village.”
“With our organisation providing Whānau Ora work, we work closely with families to help them with their plans based on several domains under the Whānau Ora programme such as health, social services, education and economic development.”
Dr Woonton says they have a strong focus on health, and in particular diabetes and mental illness. “I am also proud to say that we have insulated 50 Pacific homes throughout the Auckland area.”
“We’re also looking at strengthening cultural and community engagement such as the exercise and nutrition programme led by church communities under the Whānau Ora programme.”
The PMA Conference ended, with the ultimate message from Dr Woonton, having to see first-hand people’s living circumstances before you can understand them. “Until you go in the homes, your eyes are open.”
Dr Woonton served as the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands from 2002 to 2004 and has served as a general practitioner for over 40 years.