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Huringa Pai at the heart of health and fitness movement in Gisborne

Sick and tired of witnessing too many people in his community lose their lives unnecessarily to diabetes and heart disease, Gisborne GP, Willem Jordaan, launched a health and fitness movement called Huringa Pai (Positive Change).

Established in 2015, Huringa Pai supports whānau to make positive health changes with diet and nutrition education, and also encourages participation in exercise classes and local sporting events.

“Even in this modern day and age Māori still die on average 10 years earlier than Pākehā, with the major cause of death related to cardiovascular disease (stroke and heart attack),” Willem says.

“Major contributors to this cardiovascular disease are chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”

The Huringa Pai movement became a charitable trust in mid-2016 with a Board consisting of whānau who had been on a life-changing health journey themselves and became role models and leaders in their community. Since its inception, Huringa Pai has helped approximately 300 people improve their health. Willem says their philosophy of “for the whānau by the whānau” is at the heart of their success.

“The reason we are having such a positive impact is because it is whānau driven. We believe that only a combined, cross-organisational whānau ora effort is the way to address this issue. We also believe that by engaging our tamariki, we will see a sustainable change in the future.

“Part of our plan is to identify patients living with pre-diabetes and to address this with them. We empower them to make positive change through diet and exercise and support them every step of the way,” says Willem, who specialises in indigenous health.

While the Huringa Pai movement has seen members take part in a number of sporting events, including running, swimming and mountain-climbing challenges right up to the ultimate Ironman triathlon event, many participants’ health journey begins with the Huringa Pai Whānau Fitness group. Classes are held twice a week at Te Wharau and Ilminster School halls and with a $5000 grant from Eastern and Central Community Trust the classes are available free of charge.

“The fitness classes are very popular with around 45 people attending each session. By getting funding from ECCT to pay the fitness instructor our classes are accessible for everyone. It has become an institution on Tuesday and Thursday nights where the community come together, connect and get healthy.

“Our whānau used to have the worst statistics of diabetes in New Zealand and I’m proud to say that because of this funding supporting our fitness classes and the positive effect it has had on our community, lots of our whānau are free of diabetes,” Willem says.