Tak­ing baby steps to bet­ter health

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - PAULA HUL­BURT

A new drive to help sup­port preg­nant women and their whanau is con­nect­ing peo­ple with their past.

When Megan Seil-Jones from Blen­heim dis­cov­ered she was hav­ing twins, she wanted to en­sure her ba­bies got the chance to em­brace their Ma¯ ori her­itage.

In a South Is­land first, the launch of a new kau­papa Ma¯ ori an­te­na­tal and par­ent­ing pro­gramme got un­der way in Pic­ton on Thurs­day and Fri­day.

And with her air­force hus­band Shaun Jones at her side, Megan took the first steps to create a bond to her fam­ily’s ances­try.

The free hapu¯ wa¯nanga will be of­fered across the re­gion with an­other set to take place in Motueka on Novem­ber 22 and 23 and in Nel­son on De­cem­ber 6 and 7.

Nine more have been sched­uled to take place across the South Is­land in 2019 to help erad­i­cate in­equal­ity in health pro­vi­sion.

Megan, mother to five-yearold Jaykub Seil-Jones, said that it was im­por­tant their chil­dren were able to find a sense of be­long­ing.

‘‘I saw how dif­fi­cult it was for my hus­band to find out about his her­itage, he had to search quite hard and this is some­thing we needed to do so they [our twins] never have to go on that jour­ney and never feel lost,’’ she said.

Ma¯ ori health and vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions Kai­whaka­haere kau­papa (port­fo­lio man­ager) Felic­ity Spencer said the Ma¯ori preg­nancy, child birth and par­ent­ing pro­gramme helped en­sure there was a choice of provider for all par­ents-to-be.

‘‘There are re­wards in help­ing cel­e­brate our fam­i­lies for ev­ery­one.

‘‘We have to go back to our tra­di­tions, the knowl­edge of the gifts passed down by our an­ces­tors, it’s about go­ing back to these tra­di­tions and the prac­tice of ac­tu­ally learn­ing more about them.

‘‘Ma¯ori cul­ture is quite di­verse and we want to reach all Ma¯ ori, es­pe­cially those who feel dis­con­nected,’’ Spencer said.

‘‘If we can reach them, then this will work."

The in­ter­ac­tive ini­tia­tive fo­cused on tra­di­tional Maori birth prac­tices, preg­nancy, child birth and par­ent­ing.

Par­tic­i­pants will get a pe¯pi pack full of good­ies and a choice of wa­hakura, a wo­ven flax bas­ket, or pe¯pi pod and a kowhai sapling.

Maori health and vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions gen­eral man­ager Ditre Ta­matea said if health in­di­ca­tors for Ma¯ ori were to be im­proved, changes needed to be made early on.

Ta­matea had been in­volved in es­tab­lish­ing sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives in the North Is­land and wanted to even­tu­ally see the pro­gramme rolled out across the south.

‘‘The cur­rent health sys­tem hasn’t been tar­geted at Ma¯ori whanau who are hapu and ex­pect­ing a pe¯ pi to ar­rive.

‘‘This meets the cul­tural needs and so­cial eco­nomic needs we need to see if there is go­ing to be any im­prove­ments.

‘‘I be­lieve if we meet this chal­lenge and if we are cre­ative with how we do it then will will see a shift in Ma¯ ori health in­di­ca­tors,’’ he said.

Mid­wife Rachael Kings­bury from Golden Bay helped set up the pro­gramme.

‘‘It’s not about lec­tur­ing or preach­ing, it’s find­ing out about whanau needs and giv­ing them the knowl­edge.

‘‘This is for the whanau and for ev­ery­one in that pepi’s life and hav­ing the abil­ity to be adap­tive and change with the needs of the whanau. We learn from them too.

‘‘We do have dis­par­ity in health and this is part of putting things in place for the very be­gin­ning of that pe¯ pi’s life,’’ she said.

PAULA HUL­BURT/ STUFF

When Megan Seil-Jones and hus­band Shaun Jones found out they were hav­ing twins, they wanted to find out more about his Maori her­itage.

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