5 May 2017

Growing Pasifika Midwives and Riding the Waves

Elani Mafi and Valentina Tu’itavuki are of Tongan descent and 3rd Year Midwifery students.  Elani who was born in Tonga and emigrated to New Zealand in 1999, and is married with 4 children.   Coming from a large family of 10 and her upbringing in the islands has guided her to towards midwifery.

Valentina is NZ born and married with 3 children. There are a variety of reasons she chose midwifery but mainly it  was an empowering feel a midwife gave her after the birth of her last child.

They have found the midwifery programme very intense and challenging on multiple levels - mentally, as  physically and financially.  Fortunately, they are both recipients of the Ministry of Health - Pasifika Health Scholarship which and  are grateful for this support, as it means their student loan will be a little more manageable when they graduate as  registered midwives. They hope it continues to be available to benefit more Pasifika midwifery students.

They met AUT Pasifika Midwifery Student Liaison Ngatepaeru Marsters, whose role is to provide a wraparound service for struggling students and thereby to improve attrition rates.  She initiated networking contact with Pasifika Midwives Aotearoa (PMWA), and in particular the ‘Aunties’ mentoring programme.  The National ‘Aunties’ co-ordinator Tokarahi Tobeck pairs up a student with a Pasifika midwife and they negotiate whoever support is needed. 

Through this association Elani and Valentina met other students and midwives that has consolidated relationships.  Last year they came together to practise a dance in amongst a very busy academic timetable for a very successful fundraiser. These funds subsidised all Pasifika midwifery students attendance at the NZ College of Midwives 10th Bi-ennial Conference, and they also performed their dance on the final day - a very proud moment.

On the 31st of March - 2nd April, Pasifika Midwives Aotearoa  held their 2nd National Fono,  ‘Riding the Waves,’ where Aunties, midwives-in-waiting (Pasifika students waiting on National Exam results), Nieces and prospective students with their families came together for the weekend.  It was an opportunity to network and strengthening relationships within midwifery and with external stakeholders.  The venue Kia Aroha College had the perfect wairua that embraced our families to ‘live in’, and in the heart of Manukau.  Having the mana of Ngā Māia ki Tāmaki Makaurau , the Auckland Maori midwives to perform the Mihi Whakatau, laid the platform for a successful gathering.

We were honoured to have Jacinta Fa'alili-Fidow from TAHA as our energetic MC and privileged to have Jenny Salesa (MP) as the opening speaker.  The family atmosphere generated a comfort level for honest and open dialogue. Having MOH’s  Pacific Chief Advisor Matafanua Hilda Faaselele to remind us of their role in supporting midwifery students with scholarships - meant students could thank her personally. It was wonderful to have all the Midwifery leaders across the Auckland region and other Pasifika health representatives, in particular Fuimaono Karl Puloto-Endemann.  Students know of the Fonofale model and were a little star struck.

It was a weekend of ‘being’ together - laughter, food, family are always essential ingredients for any Pacific gathering.  It was in abundant during ei kata making, henna drawing and dancing on Saturday night where mothers, children and Aunties let their hair down and simply enjoyed the moment.  The children unhappily went home because they wanted the fun to continue.

The vision and commitment of reciprocity has been promised by Elani and Valentina as the Pasifika midwifery workforce grows along with the community. Their hope is to help bridge the gap in health inequities and make a difference as they look ahead to a career as midwives. In 2016, there was one Pasifika student graduate from AUT and this year an inspirational 10 new graduate midwives will join the workforce.

The subtleties of ‘being together’ are the threads that bind and strengthen, then magic happens along with faith of belief. 

Malo 'Aupito  Valentina and Elani for sharing your story and all those Magicians - midwives, students and supporters.


Meitaki ma'ata,

Ngatepaeru Marsters

Pasifika Midwifery Liaison & Student Support
Clinical Educator
Auckland University of Technology
School of Clinical Sciences - Manukau Campus


13 November 2015



“Reaching every mother and newborn with quality care”


It was a privilege to be able to attend my first ever global forum last month. Thanks to kind sponsorship from the organisers, TAHA was approved to present its programmes during a Marketplace Session at the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference 2015 held in Mexico City.


Over a thousand participants attended this conference which had a waiting list soon after registrations were opened.  While TAHA is familiar with the merged concept of maternal and infant health, it was the first time a global forum was held to address both maternal and newborn health together.  Mexico was chosen as the host venue due to its stellar progress in this area: newborn mortality rate reduced by almost three-quarters, child mortality rate reduced by two-thirds and maternal mortalities cut by over a quarter.  Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of the Lancet put this down to strong leadership and accountability, as well as real collaboration – tearing down boundaries between sectors and stakeholders.  In a separate talk, Mr Horton referred to the Lancet’s own failure to encourage collaboration through its issue-specific releases of publications and series so we can look forward to more collaborative series’ in future!


With 11 panels to choose from during every breakout session I was wishing I could be in several places at once.  Thankfully, each panel session was recorded and you can view them on Vimeo in your own time.  The umbrella of maternal and newborn health reached beyond traditional issues of antenatal and postnatal care.  Panel sessions and poster presentations were also focused on adolescent health, family planning, gender equity, stillbirths and technical innovations.  What impressed me was the balance between talks on clinical advances and community-based solutions, the latter involving community champions/health workers, mobilisation of women’s groups and the inclusion of men/partners in these programmes.  Systems was ever present through sessions on measurement and accountability, global financing and examples of innovation and collaboration.  The range of approaches from small localised initiatives to scaled-up programmes demonstrated the value of both.  What is important to have in place regardless of the approach, is a mechanism for tracking programmes in order to leverage success, and to be nimble enough to learn fast and make changes when failures are identified.


A few highlights for me were the plenary speakers.  As the leader of one of the most formidable global foundations, Melinda Gates required no introduction for her plenary talk.  As a result of many of the programmes funded, women and children are “not only surviving, but thriving”.  Hailing the success of the Millennium Development Goals in providing concrete targets for nations, Ms Gates told participants that investing in women and children is one of the smartest economic investments we can make – coming from a multi-billionaire, who would argue?  Making women and children the cornerstone of our society creates benefits that last a lifetime.


Hans Rosling of Gapminder delivered another of his infamously animated talks about global health, involving the audience through an interactive survey. Pleading with everyone to update our perceptions of the world, Professor Rosling used data to demonstrate incredible progress being made around the world in areas such as education, poverty eradication and reducing inequalities, and reducing mortality rates including maternal, newborn and child deaths.  Comparing our results with surveys conducted in various countries, it was no surprise to Professor Rosling that most people continue to have views of the world that date back to the 1960’s.  Highlighting progress and how we achieved them is what encourages further investments in health and social developments.  If you haven’t seen one of his talks, then click here for your viewing pleasure!


Several developments were highlighted at the conference including the release of the latest global report “Countdown to 2015: A decade of tracking progress for maternal, newborn and child survival” and “The Every Newborn Action Plan”.  The Sustainable Development Goals produced and ratified by United Nations Member States a couple of months earlier was referenced several times throughout the conference.  Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA said the SDG’s speaks to universality and called on the entire world to be responsible for achieving the identified goals.  New Zealand must be more responsive towards the SDG’s than it was towards the MDG’s.


It isn’t always possible to place New Zealand’s health needs or any other developed country in the context of global public health when the needs are much greater in countries who are still grappling with basic necessities.  However representatives from almost all countries were present as evidence shows global cooperation has made a significant difference.  Training, mentoring and support delivered in partnership with local leadership does work.  Perhaps as a Pacific person what was noticeably absent was any reference to Pacific nations.  Unsurprising given the Pacific region’s 10 million people is but the size of a city in Africa or Asia.  But there are easily applicable concepts for the Pacific and equally, Pacific programmes that can be shared with other countries.


Although we are still challenged with reducing stark inequalities in our own country, I couldn’t help but feel appreciative of what is available to us.  When there are countries that are dealing with basic infrastructure issues such as providing running water to a birthing clinic, I can only take a moment to consider how fortunate we are to have free access to care during pregnancy and free access for our children.  But it’s back to work for me, more inspired to ensure that other parents are aware of these entitlements, and more motivated to reach a point where I can be appreciative of the quality of these services for all New Zealanders.   


Conference presentations can be viewed here, so if you have the time to browse you will find some remarkable initiatives and developments around the world to perhaps inspire you or provide further context in your work. 


Ia manuia lava.


Jacinta Faalili-Fidow

TAHA Manager


International Pacific Health Conference 2014 – ‘Pacific health solutions through research and practice’

20 November 2014

The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) and the HRC Pacific Health Research Committee hosted an International Pacific Health Research Conference 2014 in Auckland on the 3 to 5 November 2014 at the Rendezvous Grand Hotel.

The International Pacific Health Conference, 2014, theme for the conference was, ‘Pacific health solutions through research and practice’.  This   provided a platform for researchers and communities to come together for interdisciplinary dissemination of health research, practice and knowledge.

The keynote speakers throughout the conference were both local and international researchers who captured the essence of the theme and inspired many who attended with their health research and their journeys as a researcher.  They included:

Professor Sir Mason Durie:  Professor of Maori  Research and Development, and Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Maori and Pasifika), Massey University
Professor Keawe’aimoku Kaholokula:  John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa

The panel of impressive young researchers on day 3 of the conference inspired many.  Their personal stories were eloquently captivating providing an element of inspiration to their work.  Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu from Victoria University moved many as she shared her personal journey towards achieving her PhD in the biomedical field.  This focused on preclinical studies for cancer vaccines designed to stimulate the immune system to destroy tumour.  This was well articulated and captured the attention of all.

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu: Victoria University of Wellington, Lecturer in pharmacology and pathophysiology.  PhD in biomedical science at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.
Dr Yvette C. Paulino:  University of Guam, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences.  PhD in epidemiology at the University of Hawai’i at Maonoa.
Seini Jensen:  Pasifika Futures, Auckland.  Director of Performance and Evaluations for Pasifika Futures, the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency for Pacific families in New Zealand. Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws, and Master of Art (first class honours) min social anthropology from the University of Auckland.
Dr El-Shadan Tautolo:  AUT University of Auckland, Associate Director of the Pacific Islands Families (PIF) Study based at AUT University.  Postdoctoral Fellow.

Overall, the conference brought together many who participated in an array of topics throughout the 3 day programme which included:

child and youth
partnerships and capacity building
innovation and technology
behavioural and mental health
reproductive health
non-communicable/communicable diseases
environmental health


This forum allowed TAHA Well Pacific Mother and Infant Service to share some of the work and innovation that they are currently undertaking with two abstracts being accepted in the’ Innovation and technology stream’  and the ‘reproductive Health’ stream.  Both presentations were well received by those who attended both locally and internationally.  In addition, the networking and the amount of knowledge absorbed throughout the conference has reinforced and confirmed the direction that TAHA proceeds to take.




TAHA is supportive of the HRC’s mission, ‘benefiting New Zealand through health research’, and is of opinion that the high quality health research emphasised is an integral component in reducing disparities in health outcomes, and lifting the health and well-being status for Pacific peoples.  TAHA will align every effort possible in achieving this for Pacific Maternal and Infant health both locally and internationally.

TAHA would like to express their appreciation and congratulations to the Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand and the HRC Pacific Health Research Committee for a successful conference which TAHA has been able to participate like many to present and profile their work.  Furthermore, highlighting that research can inform improvements in Pacific health and health care delivery.

Translating scientific evidence into everyday language for our Pacific mothers, fathers and families

24 October 2014

The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine, the Public Health Association and the Health Promotion Forum have just hosted the inaugural New Zealand Population Health Congress held on the 6-8 October 2014 at the Aotea Centre, Auckland.

The Congress has been a major event in New Zealand's population health calendar this year. It allowed attendees the chance to learn, discuss and debate advances in population health thinking and practice in areas such as child health, housing, nutrition, indigenous health and climate change.  The overarching Congress theme was 'Connecting Communities, Science and Policy' and the programme provided multiple opportunities to achieve this goal.

There was a range of inspiring and challenging local and international keynote speakers which included:

Massey University Professor of Māori Studies Sir Mason Durie
Secretariat of the Pacific Community Director-General Dr Colin Tukuitonga
University of Otago Professor of Public Health Philippa Howden-Chapman
Auckland University Professor of Epidemiology Shanthi Ameratunga
New Zealand Journalist and social commentator Rod Oram
President of International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) Dr Michael Sparks
University of California Professor of Global Environmental Health Kirk Smith
President-elect of the American Public Health Association Professor Shiriki Kumanyika
Oxford-based political economist Professor David Stuckler.


In all, there were over 600 people in attendance, more than 120 presentations delivered , 20 master classes and short courses and lots of conversations around the topic of major population and public health issues.

TAHA Well Pacific Mother and Infant Service had two abstracts accepted for presentations in two different streams – Innovative health systems & technology that support Hauora; and the Pacific symposium.  In addition to our presentations, Jacinta was invited to be a panellist on the symposium workshop stream - A time for action: what will it take to eliminate child and youth poverty and inequity in Aotearoa?  These presentations occurred simultaneously allowing TAHA's work and advocacy work around Pacific maternal and infant health to be showcased to a large number of people

The amount of knowledge dissemination, networking and information sharing over the three days was phenomenal.  There have been many lessons learnt, particularly around how some of the work the presenters highlighted can be implemented into the work we do at TAHA, not to mention things we are already doing well.  Of particular interest were the number of interventions and programmes set up to help improve the nutrition and physical activity status of pregnant women across NZ.  There has been a huge drive through the Ministry of Health to focus on maternal and infant nutrition and earlier this year; the NZ Herald highlighted a study of how obesity in pregnancy can affect baby in the long term which can be read here http://www.taha.org.nz/latest-news/obesity-pregnancy-puts-baby-risk-study  .  This emphasises the important work TAHA has in ensuring the scientific evidence that is available is translated into a language that our Pacific mothers, fathers and families are able to understand well, in addition to transferring it into positive behaviour changes.  We are grateful that TAHA is part of the Healthy Babies Healthy Futures programme with Auckland and Waitemata DHB (including other key stakeholders) as it is essential that we are working collectively and collaboratively towards the needs of our Pacific mothers, fathers and families.

TAHA was inspired by the recipients of the various awards conferred during the Congress Dinner.  We wish to congratulate all the recipients, especially Dr David Tipene-Leach for being awarded an Honorary Fellowship for his outstanding contributions to SUDI prevention, and Sir Mason Durie, also for an Honorary Fellowship, and for receiving the inaugural Toitoi Manawa award for health promotion.

The Declaration of the Inaugural New Zealand Population Health Congress was a significant outcome of the forum, committing all those who attended and members of the three partner organisations to priority actions for improving public health in NZ.  TAHA was no doubt pleased that the first priority action was “Giving all children of Aoteaora New Zealand and the Pacific nations the best start in life”. TAHA will be aligning our efforts with other contributors to this goal wherever possible.

TAHA wishes to congratulate the NZ College of Public Health Medicine, Public Health Association of NZ and Health Promotion Forum of NZ for their successful collaboration and foresight in bringing this inaugural conference to NZ.

Maternal Mortality and Suicide

From 2006 to 2012, there were 71 maternal mortalities in NZ – 23 from direct causes and 48 died from causes indirectly related to the pregnancy.  Nineteen (~28%) of these women took their own lives, and the majority were Maori or Pacific.

Suicide reporting in NZ has long followed protocols that inadvertently prevent open discussions of this issue.  While these protocols remain, the statistics show the need for urgent action to prevent suicides in NZ, notwithstanding the number of suicide attempts which are not recorded in the annual PMMRC reports.  The maternity workforce can play a role in suicide prevention, especially as vulnerable women can be identified once they are pregnant.

LeVa is leading New Zealand’s first National Pacific Suicide Prevention Programme adopting a variety of strategies that encompass community leadership, research, advocacy and innovative engagement tools.  Find out how you can learn more about the evidence, relevant approaches and about bringing hope to those who need it.

On 26 June, LeVa launched a series of digital stories from Pasifika individuals who share their experiences of ‘darkness’, resilience and hope.  The “Healing Stories” can be downloaded on the LeVa website.