Half of the region’s new babies have their growth and development checked by a Māori health organisation nurse. Just seven years ago it was only 22 percent. The shift reflects ways iwi health providers are reaching out to mums and the extensive wraparound support they offer.
Eight-week-old moko Gypsy Lee Anderson has grown two centimetres in two weeks and mum Kassandra Anderson (Tuhoe, Ngati Porou) is thrilled.
“I’m an experienced mum but I’m a bit of a worrier and it’s nice to have someone here to tell me those kinds of things.”
The busy mother of four looks on proudly as her Tūranga Health Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse Christine Kemp lifts Gypsy off the length chart and on to the baby scales to check her weight. “They’re both doing really well,” says Christine.
Baby Gypsy is just one of 152 babies born between January and June this year receiving Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse care from Tūranga Health. Yearly, around 700 babies are born in the region and if current numbers are anything to go by iwi providers will be supplying the Well Child service to half of them by year end.
Well Child Tamariki Ora is a free service funded by the Ministry of Health for all New Zealand children from birth to five years. The service traces its origins back to when Karitane nurses first specialised in infant care. Since the early 1920s most New Zealanders can claim they had their growth recorded in an official baby book. These days it happens in the Well Child Tamariki Ora book.
Over Gypsy’s next four years of life Christine will make seven to 10 visits – and Christine and Kassandra will record every milestone in Gypsy’s book.
Most of the nurse visits will happen in Gypsy’s first 365 days. Christine will monitor her growth and development as well as Kassandra and the family’s health and wellbeing. She’ll advise about immunisation, oral health, early childhood education, vision and hearing.
In a recent visit Christine brought beanies, booties and a woollen jersey for Gypsy. The gifts weren’t unusual. Many Tūranga Health mums are lucky enough to receive baby clothes and quilted blankets created by local craftswomen who want to give back to the organisation and whānau.
Kassandra says she looks forward to the visits. “I always have questions. ‘Is this okay? Is this normal?” laughs the 34-year-old, who worked at Te Wiremu House as a caregiver before Gypsy was born.
“When Gyspy once cried for what seemed like the entire day, that’s when it was awesome to contact Christine and ask for advice.”
All up there are 2800 zero-to- four-year-olds in the district. Over the past seven years Tūranga Health has gone from looking after 357 zero to four-year-olds to 900. When combined with the 300 pre-schoolers being cared for by Ngati Porou Hauora nurses, Tūranga Health’s Well Child Tamariki Ora coordinator Janneen Kinney says iwi health providers are now seeing 43 percent of the district’s youngsters.
“At Tūranga Health, it’s a privilege that more mums and their families are choosing us to support them. Families are looking for a provider they can connect with, and that’s what we’ve been working hard to make happen at Tūranga Health.”
}Tūranga Health has increased its nurse numbers from two to three to manage demand. The team includes nurses Christine Kemp, Tausilia Letufuga and Akesa Kavai, kaiāwhina Sarah Brown and Leslie Puketapu, and Whānau Ora kaimahi Rhonda Pohatu and Tangiwai Milner-Madden.
Tūranga Health’s services for new mums and their babies includes antenatal classes and breastfeeding advice, and it can help with car seats, driver licensing and home insulation.
Janneen says Tūranga Health staff work where people live, work and play, and that’s been an attraction for families. “Having a baby is an exciting but often challenging time of life for mum and the rest of the whānau. We’re offering mums and their families’ choice, and that’s to be celebrated. Furthermore, what we offer here fits with today’s family life.”
}An example of that is when the nurses use Facebook and its Messenger app to connect with mums no longer actively using the service.
“We find lots of mums using Messenger,” says Christine. “Maybe they’ve moved or don’t have a phone. Often they don’t have credit for calls but they do have access to free wi-fi, and so we’ve become tech friendly and it’s helped us reconnect with mums.”
Kassandra regularly talks to Christine that way. “Messenger is easiest for me because I don’t always have credit on my phone. I’ve wanted to know about sleeping and feeding and even though I’ve been here before with my other children I can’t always remember this type of stuff.”
Janneen thinks Tūranga Health’s communication with families is one reason it’s baby numbers continue to rise. “We want to be relevant and useful to whānau. Between feeding and sleeping and everything else life can throw at you, the support we offer to parents and tamariki adjusting to the new arrival can be crucial.”
Kassandra agrees. She keeps Gypsy’s Well Child Tamariki Ora book in the cot (Gypsy sleeps in a bassinet) and every time Christine turns up she grabs it knowing she’s about to learn a little bit more about her baby’s progress.
“I’ve used other providers before but this time I chose Tūranga Health because friends suggested it. They’ve been awesome and I get all the information I need.”
When Kassandra learns Gypsy has blossomed to a healthy 10 pounds 5 ounces her smile and sense of relief couldn’t be greater.
“That’s another one of my questions ticked off!”
Jo Ware Imagery
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