Strength of community engagement in controlling and preventing COVID-19 in a highly vulnerable Māori populated region in New Zealand
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Health New Zealand, Tairawhiti, Gisborne, New Zealand
Te Kupenga Net Trust, New Zealand
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A328
Background and objectives: Tairāwhiti district in New Zealand has a unique demographic and geographic makeup in which Māori represent 53% of the population and are disproportionately represented in adverse health and social outcomes. In this context, an equitable response was required to ensure all families and communities could access timely support to minimise the impact of COVID-19, despite existing stressors, including comorbidities, economic deprivation and housing stress. The programs primary Objectives are to establish a community-led, clinically partnered and locally structured program to respond to the COVID pandemic, to coordinate responses to reduce the risk of fragmented service to families, and to mitigate community transmission of COVID. Methods: Public Health identified a well-established community organisation named "Te Kupenga Net Trust" which had already delivered a range of welfare services to indigenous population groups in the region. Representatives of the leading partners engaged with the trust, and the service structure was transformed into a COVID service provider named "Takatū Hub". Public Health and the main co-partners through the Takatū Hub provided welfare, psychosocial support, primary care, testing and isolation. Results: The majority of 16,784 local COVID patients and their families received immediate medical and welfare advice from the service. Tairāwhiti Māori COVID hospitalization rate is remarkably lower (1.8/1000) than the national rate (3.08/1000). This could be related to better community care in Tairāwhiti through this specific programme. This programme generated other positive effects, such as: a new and unique workforce trained with the agility and ability to respond to exceptional circumstances, strengthened relationships between agencies, and shared learnings and successes evident in different parts of the service continuum. Conclusions: This exercise has demonstrated that localised and community-led establishments can be transformed into other health settings in public health crises and provide community support and care to reduce hospitalization.
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