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.

Waitakere Alternative Education students help shape Smokefree messages

Waitakere Alternative Education students help shape Smokefree messages

Students of Waitakere Alternative Education are soon to have their say in changing the future for young Maori people who smoke.

Healthy Families Waitakere is extending its engagement with youth in West Auckland schools to include alternative education, marking a first for alternative education students nationwide.  

The innovation will see students co-design smokefree messaging and learning in alternative education environments, co-ordinated by Healthy Families Waitakere in partnership with Waitakere Alternative Education, youth hub Zeal West, Waitemata District Health Board, Sport Waitakere and Ready Steady Quit.

Scott Samson, Manager of Waitakere Alternative Education which provides short term intervention to support students away from mainstream education, says there is untapped potential and creativity within these young people.

“This is a real point of difference because the students developing the messages will be the ones the messages are intended to reach,” he says.

While the average smoking rate in Auckland is 12.9%, 777 of those people are Māori aged between 15 and 19 years located in the Waitemata District Health Board zone. West Auckland local board areas of Henderson Massey, Waitakere Ranges and Whau report higher smoking rates (2013 Census), and with 4000 NZ children starting to smoke every year at the average age of 14, prevention is critical.

Waitakere Alternative Education is made up of 90% Maori students, with 95% identifying as smoking cigarettes daily and latest research tells us that Maori adult smoking rates are very high at over 30%.

 The programme will see students aged between 13 and 18 years old lend their voice and ideas around smokefree messaging, with the backing of the school and wider community.

The student led initiative will allow youth to co-design the learning framework and is likely to incorporate mediums such as art and kapa haka. Youth input will extend to details like specifying start and finish dates to align with curriculum, as well as shaping any awards or recognition alongside the learning.

Healthy Families Waitakere manager Kerry Allan says it’s important to ensure young people are leading the way by facilitating a process where youth can gain first-hand knowledge on the development of health promoting messages for smokefree.  

“This is about using the youth voice – ultimately to bring about systems change in the learning setting.

“Maori participation at all levels of the development and implementation of health promoting messages is critical to the impact it has on the community, and ultimately enhances their capabilities and opportunities as young people in Waitakere,” says Kerry.

“Engaging alternative education students is a critical step to extending the work we’ve already done in schools in the region.  We need to include these students in conversations to understand what young people think about smoking and what messages would encourage them and their peers to stop smoking.”

The project continues last year’s initiatives in West Auckland schools to encourage student leadership and action around smokefree messages, with the ultimate aim of reducing smoking rates in the community’s youth population.

Workplaces motivated to make changes for their staff wellbeing

Workplaces motivated to make changes for their staff wellbeing

A unique workplace initiative bringing together health providers and West Auckland businesses is delivering much more than good health.

Five businesses employing over 300 staff have made sustainable changes to their work environment, policies and practices to support improved health and wellbeing for their employees.  They are now celebrating increased camaraderie, a move to healthier food, group exercise and employees committed to making long term positive changes for their health.

Key relationships with business leaders from the Rosebank Road business community, developed by Healthy Families Waitakere, led to the opportunity to provide an innovative approach to support staff wellbeing.  A number of external health agencies were brought together to conduct health and wellbeing checks onsite at the workplaces.

Employees could undergo health checks including blood pressure; BMI; diabetes blood testing; waist circumference, weight and respiratory function; risk factor evaluation and nutrition; and counselling.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says the success of the initiative is due largely to the unique collaboration between the health agencies.

“The real success of this is the collective action taken by the health providers to offer these checks - all had not worked together before.  The ability to have them all on site at the same time, coordinating their services at each work place was extremely well received, by employers and employees alike.

“Most of the businesses that participated are located in areas which are heavily populated with takeaway and convenience foods and on main transport routes.  Working environments play a critical role in supporting the health and wellbeing of staff and is an important focus for Healthy Families Waitakere.  We know if we can create more health promoting workplace environments where people spend a large amount of time, positive change is going to happen.”

Leading maritime manufacturer Southern Spars has identified the increased benefit to their staff wellbeing that these broader and more holistic checks have provided. 

“Previously we were testing hearing, lung function and muscle strength.  That’s from a health and safety perspective,” says Human Resources Manager Lisa Easte.

“I particularly like the wellness part of these checks because it was more holistic.  Any of the guys who had concerns, like blood pressure, identified themselves to me and were able to go off and either get counselling and have time off for stress, or even just follow up with their GP,” adds Lisa.

Yvonne Wood, Practice Manager at chartered accountancy firm UHY Haines Norton, says the results from the checks generated some valuable conversations within their team.

“It started a lot of dialogue.  Everyone was comparing their pieces of paper and people were saying “what was your sugar”, “what was your blood pressure”.  It got people talking about blood pressure and what’s normal, lifting awareness.  And it started conversations about exercise too.”

Yvonne says there has been lots of positive change across the business since the health and wellbeing checks, with the administration team taking micro breaks each hour to do some movement as an example.

“At board meetings now they have edam cheese, crackers, raw nuts with no salt and fruit.  What they used to have was sausage rolls, savouries and cake.”

These business leaders have now formed a wellness leadership group and aim to support other local business owners in the Rosebank business community to prioritise staff health and wellbeing. 
“With over 200 businesses located along Rosebank Road, this presents a significant opportunity to make large scale change,” adds Kerry. 

A brighter future for our tamariki in early childhood centres

A brighter future for our tamariki in early childhood centres

Healthy Families Waitakere convened stakeholders and educators from the early childhood sector to develop ideas and create early learning environments where children eat well and are more physically active.

Over a series of workshops, six different stakeholders came together with teachers from 70 West Auckland centres. The workshops provided a space for shared learnings and collective thinking towards actions to positively influence the health and wellbeing of under 5’s.

Educators have had success in making significant changes to their teaching practices and centre procedures. Ranui Kindergarten teachers gained an understanding of how to apply culturally relevant strategies to promote physical activity and re-designed their play activities to reflect Māori knowledge and practices.

Teacher Tui Cusack said they were inspired to apply a cultural lens to their sessions to cater to the 55% Māori children attending the kindergarten. “The teaching team looked at ways to weave a Māori physical activity framework into our setting so put what we learnt into practice and the children responded well.” she says.

Glendene Learning Steps focused on improving their environment and resources to increase physical activity in the centre. Teaching staff redeveloped a number of their active play resources, introduced new activities and upgraded their playground. Teacher, Nalina Nand said the new resources added value to their sessions around play, “The kids are more active since the new resources have been introduced”, she says.

Discoveries Educare in Te Atatu Peninsula want to inspire other centres nationwide to make positive changes around food provision. The centre is working towards the gold level of the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Award and made improvements to their menu by adding a wider variety of fruit and vegetables.

Staff have also seen less food waste since engaging parents in ways to create healthier lunchboxes.

“Over half of a child’s daily diet is consumed at day care, we want our centre to set an example for all Discoveries day care centres to create consistency across the organisation around healthy food messages and to show children that food is fun and nutritious”, says Manager Jessie Lin.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says early learning environments play a huge role in children’s wellbeing with most children spending up to 6 hours a day in early childhood centres.

“By bringing the early childhood community together to think differently about the underlying causes of poor health, we can make changes to create more health promoting early childhood centres to set the foundations for a healthier future for tamariki”.

Local Boards and Sports Clubs taking collective action to help people live healthy active lives

Local Boards and Sports Clubs taking collective action to help people live healthy active lives

Healthy Families Waitakere have been influencing local boards in West Auckland to consider how they support improved access to water in public places for the West Auckland community.

As a result, Whau Local Board prioritised funding for the installation of six water fountains in six parks that currently do not have public access to water. To ensure this investment is effective, Healthy Families Waitakere worked alongside the Auckland Council Parks Department and the sports clubs situated on the parks to agree on the positioning of the fountain.

There are over 3350 members across the six clubs and many were consulted around the location of the fountains to be placed in areas of high foot traffic. Local residents were also asked to contribute to the designs of the fountains to showcase local art and maintain the appeal to community.

Tua Raroa, Chairperson at Western Magpies Softball Club says he is excited that a fountain will be installed to support the community using Brains Park to have access to drinking water.  With around 500 people using the fields, parks, playground and courts on any given competition day, this will support the clubs’ pro water position.

“This aligns with our focus on 'water as best choice’ when playing sport and as a result of the fountain, we believe we will see less fizz coming to the park and filling our bins”, he says.

Installing water fountains to create healthier and sustainable sporting environments is spreading into other communities. Waitemata Rugby Football Club in Henderson is also demonstrating ways to increase access to free drinking water by installing a water bottle filler on the exterior of their building and holding a competition across their junior teams to design messaging around being pro water, including a mural.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says the water fountains will reinforce positive messaging about the importance being able to access water for our communities when they are being active.

“With only 45% of adults in the Waitemata region being a healthy weight, it has never been more important to make sports clubs part of the solution”, she says.


Vegetable gardening returning to our communities

Vegetable gardening returning to our communities

Eighty families in Waitakere are now benefiting from growing, harvesting and cooking with vegetables from their backyard gardens. After attending workshops that covered how to compost, build a garden bed and look after the plants, these families embarked on a journey to provide nourishing food for their whanau. With 50% of these families now cooking with the vegetables most days of the week and 80% at least once a week, we are seeing a sustainable shift in the food consumed by our communities.

Since having their own backyard garden, families have made savings by growing and cooking with vegetables that they previously would have bought from a store. For example a Ranui family no longer need to buy spinach and silverbeet as they now grow enough to feed their family.

Being able to utilise freshly picked vegetables in family meals is a significant motivator for these families to continue to grow more vegetables. A number of families are saving on waste and producing less rubbish as well as having a little more money in their pockets. These gardens are not only benefiting each family but many have shared their surplus of vegetables with wider family members, friends, neighbours and even foodbanks.

The Pasifika Arts Centre at Corbans Estate Henderson have two gardens that have become a hub for over 100 Pasifika people. 14 Pasifika groups regularly attend the Centre and have embraced the gardens as a means to re-ignite traditional gardening methods. The Centre also plans to increase the number of gardens beds and plant taro on the grass bank.

The gardens have prompted these families to share their knowledge and skills with the wider community and 10 more Pasifika families have since developed vegetable gardens in their own back yards, “The gardens have strengthened our sense of community, by creating a space to gather, share and learn about gardening and our environment.”

Corbans Estate are now seeing the value in their space being used to support local food production and will work with the Pasifika community to extend the gardens to cater for the increased demand.

Healthy Families Waitakere worked alongside key stakeholders, My Backyard Garden Project, Pasifika Vision and Compost Collective at Auckland Council, to coordinate the workshops and installation of the garden beds that are now reaping benefits for the wider community.

“A critical element to the sustainability has been connecting these families with each other and the stakeholders that can support them with training, education and materials”, says Healthy Families Waitakere Manager, Kerry Allan.