Parish Community Nurses working within the Healthy Village Action Zones Auckland District Health Board (ADHB), New Zealand.
Healthy Village Action Zones (HVAZ) is the concept of building healthy Pacific communities with access to quality health care. It is a community-led development, owned by Pacific communities, which looks after physical, social and spiritual needs of our Pacific families. There are now four Parish Community Nurses (PCNs) on board: Peleiupu Tautua (Procare Network Auckland PHO), 'Vaiola Ha'unga (Tongan Health Society PHO); Mesepa Channing-Selau (AuckPac) and newest to the team--Mele Taufua (AuckPac PHO).
There are seven Healthy Village Action Zones established within ADHB. 30 Pacific churches and three PHOs with Parish Community Nurses are actively participating in HVAZ. The PHOs are currently working with up to 10 churches each, so there is a substantial amount of coordination and communication among the PHOs, PCNs and churches to minimise duplication of processes and maximise resources.
A number of work streams currently operate under the HVAZ framework. These include gaining profiles of church populations, a CVD and Diabetes screening pilot programme, Primary Mental Health Liaison, Pacific Leadership training (for church health committees) and HEHA Pacific Community Grants to support new and existing activities within the HVAZ churches. Most of this work is coordinated and facilitated by the PCNs, with the help of a Pacific Nutritionist--Ta'i Matenga-Smith, who has now been employed to work alongside the PCNs, and deliver nutrition talks, workshops and co-ordinated activities.
At this stage of development, the unique nature of HVAZ is also a source of some significant challenges for the Parish Community Nurses. Some of these initiatives must address the diverse determinants of health for our Pacific communities. Focusing solely on health will only go partway to addressing the health status of Pacific peoples. One of the strengths of the HVAZ approach is its intersectoral engagement, working with SPARC, Auckland City Council, and other community organisations.
Overall there is potential for overload. Each church and zone is different and there are multiple cultural and other factors to be aware of. The role of the Parish Community Nurse can be fraught with substantial barriers, and it would be easy to give up when the going gets tough. However the PCNs and Nutritionist schedule a monthly meeting, a dedicated time of prayer, discussing individual needs, sharing what is happening and it also provides an opportunity to celebrate together the achievements, big and small.
Much of the strength to work within the community arises out of the personal relationship that these awesome women have with Jesus. Daily prayer is an integral part of the role and having the opportunity to pray with church members, committees, colleagues and to see miracles happen are part and parcel of the rewards of working with our communities.
The health sector within ADHB has been surely strengthened by the addition of this amazing workforce and project.
Thank you to Hilda Fa-asalele, author of this article, and to the editor of the NZFCNA newsletter, Kristine Telfer, where this article first appeared in September 2008. Visit their website at www.faithnursing.co.nz.