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Report highlights successes of Healthy Families NZ initiative

Report highlights successes of Healthy Families NZ initiative

Media release from Ministry of Health:

The Ministry of Health welcomes the recently-published Healthy Families NZ Summative Evaluation Report that highlights what’s working well and where change is needed to make the Healthy Families NZ initiative more effective and more equitable.

Healthy Families NZ is a large-scale chronic disease prevention initiative that brings together community leadership to improve people’s health in their own communities and prevent long-term conditions such as heart disease, cancers, overweightness and obesity, and harm from alcohol.

The Report was commissioned by the Ministry and authored by Massey University researchers, using a mixture of quantitative data and qualitative sources such as case studies. It provides an important evaluation of the first stage of the Healthy Families NZ initiative which will inform stakeholders across the health system, including Healthy Families NZ providers and communities.

Given the time period covered by the Report, and the timing of data collections such as the New Zealand Health Survey, it was not expected that the quantitative indicators would yet demonstrate any meaningful impact from Healthy Families NZ through reducing risk factors such as smoking, poor nutrition and obesity. This is acknowledged throughout the Report, which notes the need for context around the data sets. The initiative has been set up for on-going monitoring.

Healthy Families NZ is health promotion and equity in action at a grassroots level, supporting communities to improve health. As the Report notes, each Healthy Families NZ provider’s priorities are tailored specifically to the local community. These are spread from the Far North to Invercargill and were chosen because of higher-than-average rates of preventable chronic diseases, higher-than-average rates of risk factors for these diseases, and/or high levels of deprivation, and their readiness to initiate improvements.

Each Healthy Families NZ community has chosen its own priorities for improving health and wellbeing depending on the needs and strengths of the local community. For example, Healthy Families Lower Hutt has prioritised smoke free environments as a focus and has been making real gains in this area. Lower Hutt now has one of the most comprehensive outdoor smoke free policies.

This flexibility means some Healthy Families NZ providers have work ahead of them to make such large gains in other areas, including nutrition and obesity, as the Report identifies. This flexibility is an inherent part of the initiative and is what makes it uniquely placed to improve health equity.

The ten Healthy Families NZ providers are comprised of key partners including district health boards (DHBs), iwi, local government, sports organisations and Pacific organisations. These groups are working together to support communities to think differently about the underlying causes of poor health and to make changes to their social and physical environment, which results in better health.

The Ministry of Health sincerely thanks the Report’s authors for their work. You can read the Healthy Families NZ Summative Evaluation Report at: -

The recently-published Tier 1 statistics 2017/18 tool also provides detailed information about the health of New Zealanders -

Photo by Kyle Myburgh on Unsplash

West Auckland school celebrates a year of being sugary drink-free

West Auckland school celebrates a year of being sugary drink-free

Take up the challenge and choose water.

That’s the message from an Auckland school after its first year of being sugary drink-free.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi is one of several west Auckland schools that have moved to a water-only drinks policy. This has been supported by Healthy Families Waitakere to help influence healthier school environments.

Hoani Waititi made the change over 12 months ago when Healthy Families Waitakere helped secure funding from the Trusts Community Foundation to provide schools with new water fountains, replacing its lone out-of-date water fountain.

The change has already had a big impact on Tiraroa Hetaraka. The Year 12 student has lost weight and been inspired to live a much more active life, regularly working out at the school’s gym.

“We used to have only one water fountain which was not in the best of shape,” he says. “So it was normal for everyone to have fizzy or energy drinks instead.”

“Now we have six modern water fountains which we all use to fill up our water bottles. We’ve all taken up the challenge of drinking only water at school and you can definitely see the health benefits. It’s been pretty good for us, so no doubt it would good for other schools too.”

Healthy Families Waitakere manager Kerry Allan says the popularisation of sugary drinks is contributing to poor dental health, learning outcomes and reduced overall health in young people.

“To combat issues like obesity and chronic diseases we need to make significant changes,” she says. “One simple change is making water the first choice of drink so it’s vital we make it readily available for our children and whānau.”

Griffa Rivers is a kaiako (teacher) at Hoani Waititi and says students are more aware of the importance of selecting water over sugary drinks. She has even noticed a change in her own daughter, Javan, a current Year 13 student.

“Whenever Javan feels tired before kapa haka she’s quick to mention that it’s because she hasn’t had enough water to drink,” she says. “Even when we do a road trip and stop for a meal she will choose water.”

“That’s been the best part – seeing our rangatahi carry that message over into their life away from the classroom. When we began this initiative I thought it would be a while before we saw a change in the culture of what we drink. To see it happening only a year later is awesome.”

Over 40 schools have benefited so far from the support of Healthy Families Waitakere and funding from the Trusts Community Foundation. Healthy Families Waitakere has been supporting schools since 2016 to implement water-only policies, strengthen their messaging and help to improve the infrastructure to support water as the first choice of drink.

The power of collaboration: National report recognises achievements of Healthy Families Waitakere

The power of collaboration: National report recognises achievements of Healthy Families Waitakere

A report released by the Ministry of Health has highlighted the key achievements of Healthy Families Waitakere in developing and implementing prevention-based systems change for the Waitakere community throughout its first three years of action. Healthy Families is a national large-scale initiative that brings community leadership together in a united effort for better health.

Through this report, Healthy Families Waitakere was acknowledged as achieving notable success through collaboration with local partners and implementing coordinated approaches to chronic disease prevention for over 156,000 people living in the Waitakere region.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager, Kerry Allan, says this capability will take Healthy Families Waitakere from strength to strength.

“Healthy Families Waitakere has worked closely and developed a strong, collaborative approach with community partners, proving invaluable in supporting community-led codesign and capability building. In particular, our relationship with Sport Waitakere as our Lead Provider has enabled both teams the opportunity to extend our networks, share capabilities and reflects a growing alignment in our approaches, language, teams and programmes.”

The work Healthy Families Waitakere undertook supporting the Water Only Schools Movement was also recognised for its role in securing funding for 13 new water fountains in schools, with 40 new water fountains in schools reported as installed. To date, over 30 schools have benefited from the support of Healthy Families Waitakere and funding from the Trusts Community Foundation.

A “mana enhancing” approach is embedded in the overall strategy to ensure knowledge sharing with a Māori lens, including the re-energising of a Māori stakeholder rōpū as well as being conscious of, and using, te ao Māori concepts where applicable, such as maramataka.

Reflecting on the past four years, Kerry Allan is confident a secure foundation has been laid to pave the way for Healthy Families Waitakere to stride forward into the future.

“Healthy Families Waitakere continues to operate with integrity and purpose and develop initiatives to cater to our diverse communities in the Waitakere region. Looking ahead to the next four years, Healthy Families Waitakere will continue to connect, collaborate and empower Waitakere’s community leaders to develop prevention-based change for its people.”

Photo by Kyle Myburgh on Unsplash

Fresh approach to serving up healthy affordable kai

Fresh approach to serving up healthy affordable kai

When Healthy Families Waitakere embarked on a partnership with two West Auckland supermarkets, the goal was to increase the availability and affordability of healthy food for Ranui and Glen Eden communities.

But the initiative served up much more for countless social services operators and families nationwide.

The concept ‘Local Choice’ was developed following a co-design process involving stakeholders and members of the community as a solution to the issues facing families around providing healthy affordable meals. Local Choice enables families to provide five nutritionally sound dinners to feed six people, for under $60.

“We know that involving the community in developing a solution has much better likelihood of success and the insights from our community told us that people wanted more affordable, healthier food available in West Auckland,” says Healthy Families Waitakere Manager, Kerry Allan.

“Our goal was to activate and support local systems capable of delivering this – a community model with the potential to be upscaled at a later stage if successful.”

Community and other stakeholders were brought together to contribute and provide suitable recipe ideas, including vegetarian options.  Auckland Council and Love Food Hate Waste also contributed with information focused on preventing food waste, and assisted with the meal planner development.

The first opportunity for the community to access Local Choice was in May 2017 when families could select from five weekly sets of recipes, with a focus around winter produce.  A shopping list guided shoppers in gathering the ingredients for the dinner meals, while store layout, allocated shelf space and signage in the participating supermarkets was designed to help.  The concept was promoted via a number of local platforms.

Ellie Mackwood, a West Auckland mother of nine year old twins, was one of the first customers to use Local Choice.

“It took away the requirement to think about what to cook each night, and I felt like I was doing the right thing by my kids in terms of healthy food.  It also changed the family’s eating patterns for the better,” says Ellie.  “We started eating legumes – I’d never used them before except split peas in soup.  I now routinely use lentils in our meat patties recipe.”

Kerry says the partnership with a community-oriented supermarket owner allowed experimentation with a solution that ultimately benefitted hundreds of families locally. 

“It could inform local whānau and the wider community about cost-effective, healthy meal options while building their knowledge, attitudes and skills for accessing and preparing simple healthy, tasty food on a budget,” says Kerry.

Healthy Families Waitakere, acting as a broker, generated wide interest from more than 20 social services organisations who on-promoted the concept to their clients.

“This represented a significant step in the initiative.  The concept of enabling the delivery of affordable meals had been escalated within local social services groups with excellent take up.  We also saw it grow organically, as participants promoted the concept with others,” adds Kerry.

For local champions like the Salvation Army Waitakere, Local Choice provided a valuable tool for helping families eat well and affordably.  The content was also adapted into monthly cooking workshops for the community.

Faith Bishop Nahu, financial mentoring case worker and co-ordinator of the food bank at Salvation Army Waitakere, said she was amazed at the $60 budget and was quick to try it herself and introduce it to staff, before sharing it within her networks and educating food bank users about the initiative.

“We gave meal demonstrations to show them how to use Local Choice and how to use the ingredients, especially things like beans which are often not taken from the food pantry,” says Faith.

“It was well received, and helped promote better eating.  We had clients who had previously bought takeaways thinking they were cheaper, but then tried Local Choice and started cooking together with their kids.”

In November, the concept attracted the attention of WasteMINZ who identified the potential of using the recipe booklet as part of their nationwide Love Food Hate Waste campaign. Since then, ‘Easy Choice – Family Kai’ seasonal healthy meal planner has been enthusiastically welcomed with more than 12,000 downloads within the first few days.

So did it serve up healthy and affordable kai where it all started?

“Yes, but the reality is much more than that.  The initial Local Choice model has provided the community access to and education on how to cook healthy food across West Auckland,” says Kerry.

“The initiative delivered a model which many social service providers could then take and implement within their own networks – a true win-win that helps our community live healthier lives.”

Ripple Effect as West Auckland Schools Choose Water as First Choice

Ripple Effect as West Auckland Schools Choose Water as First Choice

Healthy Families Waitakere has been working alongside 32 schools in West Auckland to implement water only policies and strengthen messaging around water within school environments.

With the support of principals, teachers and board members, students have been driving water related changes in their schools. This has resulted in the installation of 61 new fountains and all 32 schools taking a much stronger stance on being pro water.

‘This student-led movement is delivering great results and extends to the installation of quality water fountains, often replacing aged or damaged fountains,’ says Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan.

The students identified opportunities to increase the consumption of water by their peers and explored ideas around the placement and design of new fountains to strengthen their messaging about the health benefits of drinking water.

‘Driving the changes, students mapped locations for these fountains, based on insights gathered on where they play and the highest use areas. Many older fountains were placed in areas which weren’t necessary high traffic areas for the children – and naturally the students were less likely to want to use them,’ adds Kerry.

Healthy Families Waitakere has supported Massey Primary School, Massey High School, Kelston Girls, Kelston Boys, Henderson North School, Henderson High School, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Hoani Waititi, Lincoln Heights School and many more in strengthening their messages about making water their first choice of drink and sustaining the changes with a water only policy.

Kelston Boys High School was one of the foundation schools leading the way.

‘We worked alongside Kelston Boys High School in 2017. The school community was wanting to make sustainable changes to tackle sugary drink intake among students. This was the start of something exciting and now over 20,000 students from other schools have made the change, with many more to follow,’ says Kerry.

Massey Primary students took great pride in designing their new water fountain and Principal Bruce Barnes says the new fountain has been part of a much wider water-only policy that has been well embraced by the school community.

‘Last year 25 students took part in a pro water project alongside Healthy Families Waitakere, looking at what a water policy would look like. The policy has since shaped a number of initiatives, including students identifying the best location for the new fountain,’ says Bruce.

The water policy has brought about real changes in the school environment.

‘We allow students to freely leave class to drink water from nearby fountains, and we’ve seen an associated improvement in learning. Teachers have also seen noticeable changes in lunch boxes since implementing the water only policy,” Bruce adds. “100% of students who used to bring sugary drinks to school are now opting for their water bottle that can be refilled throughout the day.’

When a new fountain was installed at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Hoani Waititi Marae, Auckland’s largest pan tribal urban Marae, students put their own spin on the water only challenge in schools by extending a wero (challenge) through the form of a haka.

Hoani student Tuake Pohatu-Ryder led his fellow students in a haka that highlighted the kura’s commitment to drinking wai, which they performed to whanau and community as a wero for Maori to do the same – with the purpose of promoting the importance of making their kura ‘pro water’.

The Hoani Waititi Board of Trustees acknowledged that the water fountain was well used by the students and moved to fund a further two fountains to make water more accessible to whanau and students of the kura.

As part of West Auckland’s pro water movement, a number of school principals are joining others in signing the Healthy Families Waitakere water pledge, a social movement to creative more health promoting environments where water is the first and best choice for all.

School leaders have joined other West Auckland representatives including local politicians, councillors ad community and primary healthcare organisations. By signing the pledge, each person and organisation has committed to take action, drink more water and encourage others to do the same.