Keeping the momentum going

18 September 2019

Lemalu Silao Vaisola-Sefo with Tana Umaga.

South Seas Healthcare CEO Lemalu Silao Vaisola-Sefo who played for the Pacific Legends rugby team in a health awareness rugby match recently says the organisation will build on the momentum generated from the rugby game to keep engaging on health awareness messages.

“The focus now is on keeping up this momentum and to keep pushing messages about healthy living. While there has been some progress made in South Auckland, more work needs to be done.”

Lemalu says Pacific people have a higher proportion of diabetes related deaths.

“Obesity is also a concern, recent data shows the diabetes prevalence rate was 20% for Pacific adults in NZ (20-79 years), the highest of all ethnic groups. What is most concerning is the high rate of type 2 diabetes in younger age groups (under the age of 40 years), which results in premature death. Health will improve once social determinants are addressed,” says Lemalu.

“Some of the services we offer in South Seas to combat diabetes and obesity, including the Navigating Pacific Wellness Service, aim to support Pacific families to live healthily and independently. We also offer a Resilient Young People Programme, which aims to increase levels of physical activity and improve nutrition in our youth.”

“Our plan focuses on children and youth, as that's where we can have the greatest impact. By focusing on children and young people, we expect to also influence the whole family.”

Obesity and diabetes were the heart of the legendary curtain-raiser match last weekend to raise awareness in our communities of how serious the statistics are, but Lemalu says creating awareness is only a part of addressing these issues.

“There needs to be a range of well-coordinated activities in all groups, including health and non-health agencies, and led by local communities, that go hand-in-hand in order to make a real difference.”

“Tackling such widespread health problems in South Auckland will require sustained efforts by community providers and collaboration between different sectors to work hand-in-hand if we are going to make an impact.”

“We work with more than 10,000 individuals and we are always looking at better ways of engaging with them and their families.”

“We recognise our Pacific families know what constitutes healthy eating, but struggle due to other factors outside their control. Families make decisions based on what they can afford, and with limited household incomes, unhealthy options will likely be their only option. Our work is to get alongside families and work together to achieve what is important for them.”

“Mental well-being is something that the players talked about as an issue that has impacted them individually, during and post rugby careers. That’s always been there for players, but it’s never been dealt with properly because it wasn’t seen as a part of rugby.”

Lemalu says life expectancy data makes it clear there is an urgent need for action. “We need to be keeping up the momentum and unanimously endorse more awareness campaigns for action on healthy living.”

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