Supporting Pacific health

Malu Tulia with Ashburton Samoan community spokesman Robert Tito.

Malu Tulia is passionate about her role as a health support worker and educator and is helping the district’s Pacific population take control of their health and wellbeing.

Malu works for Waitaha Primary Health in the role of Pasifika Navigator and covers the area from Cheviot to Hinds.

Because of the demand for her services, she spends three days a week in Ashburton.

GPs from Tinwald Medical Centre, Three Rivers, Health First and Moore Street refer clients to her and she provides in-home support and advice on issues such as housing, health and rural challenges.

Malu, who has Samoan heritage, works with families to create a plan to access services and establish connections.

She says education is the key to her work.

“There are a lot of services on offer to Pacific people if they know about them and are prepared to go along.”

Some were hesitant to visit a doctor because they didn’t want to be a burden, and cost and language were other barriers that affected some decisions, she said.

“Health is everything,” she says.

Malu also hosts monthly education talks in Ashburton.

The sessions, usually held on the last Saturday of the month at Balmoral Hall, run from 10.30am until 1pm, and have been held since August last year.

They have covered everything from diabetes and cardio vascular disease through to asthma, cancer and bowel problems. Topics are chosen by the community and advised to Malu by local Samoan community spokesman Robert Tito, who facilitates the monthly talks.

Malu said she would love to see more health resources for the Pacific community here.

“There is a huge need for it – I’ve seen that need in my role over the last year or so.”

-By Mick Jensen