New public water fountains increase access to water for all

New public water fountains increase access to water for all

Park users in parts of West Auckland will have increased access to fresh water with the installation of five new water fountains over the next month.

The investment in the new fountains has been a priority for the Whau Local Board, which contributed funding to the project last year. 

The fountains will be installed in popular parks, including some where sports clubs are located.  These include Brains Park, Sister Rene Shadbolt Park, Eastdale Reserve, Lawson Park and Blockhouse Bay Recreational Reserve.

The Whau Local Board has worked alongside Healthy Families Waitakere to engage with the park and sports club users, as well as community members regularly using the facilities, for recommendations on where the fountains should be placed, in high traffic areas.

“We consulted with the local sports clubs involved to determine the best location for these fountains.  These clubs are increasingly promoting water as the best choice of drink for their members while playing sport and giving users access to fresh drinking water is a critical part of this,” says Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan.

Healthy Families Waitakere has been working across West Auckland to help different sectors of the community – including schools, clubs, workplaces and recreational facilities – to tackle sugary drink intake, and ultimately drive the consumption of water. 

“The placement of these fountains in public parks, where people are playing, exercising and socialising, is another important step to increasing access to fresh water – and helping our community make it their drink of choice,” adds Ms Allan. 

Whau Local Board Chair Tracy Mulholland says the Board is committed to the ongoing investment in water fountains as part of the rejuvenation of local parks, gardens and reserves alongside other work, such as the development of new paths and cycleways.

“A key focus for our board is to support more active and healthier lifestyles and the installation of water fountains helps encourage people to get out and use our parks and open spaces for recreational purposes,” she says.

“These spaces are backyards for everyone and we are proud to work with Healthy Families Waitakere and, also, to commit more funding to this project for 2018/19.”

The new fountains will include both fountains and bottle fillers, and some will also include dog drinking trays.

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

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.

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.