e pā ana ki a matou
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Community and Public Health on the West Coast (Greymouth)
Nearly 33,000 people live in the Buller, Grey and Westland Districts, a 400 km long region between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. This makes the West Coast one of the most sparsely populated regions in New Zealand. The remote nature of many small and isolated communities poses specific health challenges around sewage treatment and disposal, and potable water.
The natural beauty of the area attracts more than 1 million visitors a year, largely during the spring and summer months. This level of tourist activity carries some environmental risks for recreational water contamination and infectious diseases, especially in popular destinations such as Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and Punakaiki. The predominantly young and transient population of tourists and those employed in the tourism industry creates concerns around safe sexual behaviours and responsible alcohol use.
Healthy eating, being physically active and advocating the smokefree lifestyle are also important focuses for the staff at the Greymouth office. Significant work is currently targetted at promoting healthy ageing to the region’s older people, through initiatives around physical activity and injury prevention.
As partners in Active West Coast, Community and Public Health work with District Councils to improve and promote opportunities for physical activity. The Grey District Aquatic Centre is open and well used by the community, and major developments are occurring in Buller and Westland as part of their new physical activity strategy. Staff are also contributing to the development of a region-wide walking and cycling strategy.
The Greymouth office has also a Community Health Information Centre, providing a range of health education resources from the Ministry of Health and other providers.
Barrytown School commits to water and milk only
West Coast DHB media release: 5th June 2018
Barrytown School has joined a West Coast commitment to healthy hydration by taking part in a “water and milk only” schools programme.
Principal Rachael Whyte volunteered Barrytown School for the pilot programme. “It seemed a natural progression given we are already a Fonterra Milk school. On the whole our students make pretty healthy choices around their eating, so to be a pilot school wouldn’t come with too many objections. Being pretty isolated, we don’t have a canteen at school or shops nearby, so that limits the availability and immediate access to unhealthy options.”
Noticeable results can already been seen at school since the introduction on the programme, and parents have commented that their kids are changing their habits at home too. “There are less trips to the toilet and students are choosing to drink water at home now,” Rachael says.
“This is a great programme that engages the students and makes them think about what goes into their bodies. It would be fantastic to see this being used in other schools.”
Community and Public Health West Coast Health Promoter Carina Schill and Health Promoting Schools Facilitator Tessa Hunter worked with the school on a pilot programme to get the students drinking only water and milk in Term 2. The programme aims to promote long-term change rather than a one-off health drive.
The full primary school has 26 students and two classes – one senior and one junior. “The idea was to start with a small health-promoting school,” Carina says. “The principal is a big supporter. We came in and all the kids already had drink bottles.”
The programme includes assisting the school with education that engages students to make good decisions outside of school as well – rather than simply asking a school to implement a policy. Education activities include using coloured water and flowers to show how living things absorb water, and learning about the different functions water has in the human body.
The pilot programme will be reviewed and evaluated at the end of Term 2 by Community and Public Health.