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