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Māori health: King Tuheitia launches a home heart programme to help save lives

Māori liaison specialist nurse Patumahoe Leaf-Wright is taking specialty cardiology services to rural and remote communities. Video / Hāpaitia te Hauora Manawa

A first-of-its-kind service that delivers in-home heart checks has been hailed as a "game-changer" for its potential to shift the dial on community cardiac health - particularly in rural and Māori communities.

Hāpaitia te Hauora Manawa was launched today by the Māori King Tuheitia and co-chair of the Māori Health Authority, Tipa Mahuta, at Kirikiriroa Marae in Hamilton.

The programme centres on specialist cardiologists at tertiary hospital care supporting an outreach nurse specialist and echo sonographer travelling to remote communities to undertake life-saving heart screening for at-risk groups.

"Māori have some of the highest incidences of heart-related diseases in the country, being 9.8 times more likely to be admitted with heart failure and 2.8 times more likely to be admitted due to a heart attack," says Riki Nia Nia, executive director of Māori Health at Waikato District Health Board.
"The delivery of these types of community programmes can be a game-changer for Māori. It enables us to reach people that may have difficulty accessing healthcare in traditional settings, close equity gaps and improve the disproportionate health outcomes that have long affected our whānau," he says.
"We have seen first-hand the benefits of the community-led Māori vaccination campaigns and we expect to see similar success with the launch of this programme."

The programme, co-designed by Māori community leaders, nursing staff, specialist cardiologists, Waikato DHB management and executives, regional NGOs and industry partners, is the first of its kind for cardiac health in New Zealand and will be led by experienced Māori liaison specialist nurse, Patumahoe Leaf-Wright.

"Programmes like this give us an opportunity to really try doing something quite radically different - especially coming from a DHB," says Ms Leaf-Wright.

Patumahoe Leaf-Wright.

"It doesn't fit the DHB mould of how these things go at all, and that's the whole point. The whole point is to do it differently, to have a completely different approach."

Harnessing technology to improve health outcomes is also central to the programme, which includes a state of the art bi-lingual (English - te reo Māori) Remote Health Management platform with built-in telehealth capability, which will bring specialist tertiary services closer to remote communities through video link.

Dr Raj Nair, head of cardiology at Waikato DHB and clinical lead of the programme, says the focus on delivering healthcare in the community will enable the DHB to reach more at-risk patients and reduce barriers to accessing healthcare, specifically for Māori.

"Traditional models of care often fail those who need to access health services the most. We need to consider how and where care is delivered. For many this is in the community. This programme aims to address this need directly.

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