Gisborne fights diabetes epidemic through Huringa Pai

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Gisborne is fighting to keep it's community alive from some of it's biggest killers - diabetes and heart disease. 

The Huringa Pai health movement is based in Kaiti and supported primarily by Puhi Kaiti Community Health Centre for the benefit of the communities of Kaiti and Gisborne.

"In the whole of New Zealand we had the worst statistics let's just summarise it like that," says Dr Willen Jordaan of Ngāti Porou Hauora.

"Losing limbs is one thing - it's a tragedy but there are heaps of our younger tāne who have died because of a heart attack because of diabetes."

To understand the problem a map of Gisborne was plotted to show every house where the clinic's patients lived who had pre-diabetes.

Around 500 patients were identified "We knew it was bad but that proved to us that there was the problem," says Dr Jordaan.

In 2015 Huringa Pai was created by whānau for whānau to get healthy and live longer with an emphasis on living healthy.

Paul Smith who has just turned 49 is just one of the many Huringa Pai success stories.

He used to be a regular visitor to the A&E Department to the point where he says the staff knew him by his first name.

"About a year or so ago I think in one month I must've been there at least 16 times." 

"I was having men issues basically those issues were caused because I was obese, I was overweight."

At his heaviest, he weighed 181kg and was given anywhere between five to 10 years to live but he has since lost over 60kg and lives a much healthier lifestyle.

Community organisations which volunteer their time make Huringa Pai possible and its current participation level is around 500.

The entire kaupapa is run by on a volunteer basis including regular Whānau Fitness classes every week made by possible by a group of Les Mills instructors who do it all for free.

"It's for the love of the people he tangata he tangata he tangata," says Trudie Lelievre of Taha Ora.

"We do it cause we need to get people moving and diabetes and obesity and heart disease is a big epidemic in Gizzy, it's not about weight loss it's about getting our people to live longer."

Huringa Pai not only focuses on getting active it also promotes healthy eating through a community garden that sees around 100 whānau use it every week.

"When this garden is in season we're getting tonnes of food out of here it's really a lot of whānau coming through here. "

"People that just need that little bit extra, to put on the table so it's been really surprising," says Tuta Ngarimu of Ka Pai Kaiti.

Bypassing the funding red tape and box ticking has meant saving lives faster for this community.