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Community and Public Health in South Canterbury (Timaru)
South Canterbury has a population of more than 55,600, and includes the Timaru, Waimate and Mackenzie Districts, between the Rangitata and Waitaki rivers.
According to the 2013 Census, the region is predominately Pakeha, but the population is now more diverse with 7 percent Maori, 2.5 percent Asian and 1.1 percent of Pacific ethnicities.
The region has a highest proportion of people over 65 in the country (20.4 percent), and nearly 1 in 3 people in South Canterbury live in rural areas, nearly twice the level for the rest of New Zealand.
The work of the Timaru-based Community and Public Health staff reflects one of the South Canterbury District Health Board’s (SCDHB) strategic priorities “to improve the population’s health status”. Key focus areas are on lifestyle, cancer, child and adolescent health, and reducing inequalities.
Assistance in the areas of enviromental health and infectious diseases is provided by two Health Protection Officers. They are also involved in biosecurity monitoring at the Port of Timaru, and health and safety assessments of Early Childhood Centres.
The Timaru office also has a Community Health Information Centre, providing a range of health education resources from the Ministry of Health and other providers.
Health Promotion Activities in South Canterbury
WAVE (Well-being and Vitality in Education) is a major public health initiative in South Canterbury. It is a programme of intersectoral activities aimed at creating and supporting healthier environments for South Canterbury children and young people. WAVE is unique to South Canterbury in that it supports and enhances health promotion activities across the education sector, ranging from Early Childhood Centres to tertiary providers.
Community and Public Health also works with the South Canterbury District Health Board to support the Ministry of Health’s vision of good oral health for all, for life. Preventing and promoting good oral health is a most effective way to make improvements over the long term. The South Canterbury Oral Health Promoter and Public Health Dietitian work with the community to create environments that promote good oral health from an early age, including:
- Integrating oral health promotion within existing services (e.g. Well Child Providers and Midwives)
- Supporting WAVE Early Childhood Centres to promote oral health
- Providing one-on-one dietary and oral health advice to families of children at high risk for developing dental caries.