When Pumamao (Benj) Brennan learned that Māori life expectancy was seven years lower than the rest of the New Zealand population, he was determined to claim those seven years back by offering his extended whānau the opportunity to make lifestyle changes that would see them live healthy lives into old age.
To tackle the issue, Benj (Ngāi Tahu) and his wife, Nicole Manawatu Brennan (Ngāi Tahu) established Te Haumanu – The Revitalisation, a two-day wānanga focussed on delivering information to fifteen whānau members, to enable them to make informed choices about their health and wellbeing.
“We want our whānau to have every opportunity to be successful at changing their lifestyles, so they can move toward their senior years with confidence – so they can enjoy life at 60, 70 and beyond, and they can enjoy spending time with their mokos,” says Benj.
Held at Devondale Estate in Belfast on June 26-27, the wānanga particularly targeted people in leadership roles within the community.
“People in leadership positions are often overlooked or forgotten when it comes to health and wellbeing wānanga,” says Benj.
“Because they’re always helping everyone else achieve their goals, it’s just assumed that they must be fit and healthy; yet because they give so much of themselves, their cup often runs empty.
“We do a good job of looking after our kaumātua, our rangatahi and our tamariki but our pakeke are often left out of funding initiatives. That’s why we’re focussing on people in their forties and early fifties. They’re in the age range for pre-diabetes and early heart issues, so we wanted to give them the tools to make the changes they need.”
The wānanga featured a number of presentations and workshops, and Laura Tau (Ngāi Tahu) an intern doctor, carried out a range of blood tests and other check-ups. She also presented a COVID-19 vaccination workshop and was ready to answer any questions about health and wellbeing.
A representative from the Caci Clinic carried out facial skin mapping and provided advice on the best cosmetic products; and dietician and nutritionist, Nicole Pietzner held a healthy eating and cooking workshop, with an emphasis on creating healthy snacks.
“And because we all love Italian food, we also brought in a chef to demonstrate healthy cooking options and food selection. It was a step-by-step workshop that maximised nutritional value and easy cooking processes.”
Funded by Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu in partnership with Pharmac, the pilot programme is just the beginning says Benj.
“Without their funding support, we wouldn’t have been able to get this project off the ground. It’s allowed us to take our first small steps toward a larger goal – to plan, research and instigate a relevant kaupapa that will ensure our whānau have every chance of success in making lifestyle changes,” he says.
He also believes that having smaller funding grants allows applicants to take the necessary smaller steps towards larger kaupapa.
“Having smaller pūtea available is very valuable and I like to think that this weekend wānanga has provided us with a solid base to build on. We’d like to think of it as a pilot that could be picked up by others also. Health and wellbeing is an ongoing issue. It’s not going away and it’s important that our whānau have the right information and the right tools to make informed decisions that will help them live longer,” he says.
“If we want to be healthy at sixty and seventy, we have to start now.”