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National target met after dramatic improvement

Whetu Matthews (left) with her son Jared Te Iti-Matthews and General Manager Māori Health Gains and Development Tricia Keelan (right).

Manaakitanga, determination and teamwork are behind the dramatic improvement of a Māori health indicator which has led to a national target being met for the first time, says the head of BOPDHB Māori Health Gains and Development.

In a little over 18 months, the number of Bay of Plenty Māori pre-schoolers enrolled for free dental health services has risen by over 2300.

That has resulted in a jump from 59 per cent of the eligible population enrolled to 96 per cent, exceeding the national target.

“A number of approaches had been tried but the indicator had not really moved,” said Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB) General Manager Māori Health Gains and Development Tricia Keelan. “It was at 59 per cent in March 2017 but had been lower before and the team set about changing that.”

The BOPDHB’s Good to Great Team in Māori Health Gain and Development, working closely with the Community Health 4 Kids team, have been largely credited for the success.

Key strategies employed included manaakitanga (mana enhancing interaction), use of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) change methodology, data quality improvements, and whanaungatanga (relationships) and contact with parents of pre-schoolers.

“It has been a Māori-led collaborative approach, where determination, persistence and mahitahi have paid off,” says Tricia, who added that the success was just the beginning.

“The improvement has highlighted issues of unmet need in terms of oral health,” she said. “Enrolment is one thing but we are aiming for Toi Ora, and, that means supporting and empowering oranga in oral health and also ensuring timely assessment and treatment. Untreated oral health issues go on to affect children long term if not addressed.

“Oranga niho - healthy baby teeth are important, not only for chewing food - they contribute to mauri ora, wairua ora, kōrero and oranga. The baby teeth also hold spaces for, and guide, the position of adult teeth.”

Tricia says the success had benefits for all children in te Moana a Toi as well.

“Yes we achieved improvement in Māori pre-school enrolment but through this work we improved for non-Māori too. Enrolment for the Total Population of pre-schoolers in BOPDHB is now above the national target of 95 per cent."

She added that the task ahead of the team now was to replicate this success in other areas and develop a new Te Toi Ahorangi Strategy.

“This is just the beginning as we build on this work for improvement with other Māori health indicators such as breast screening, breast feeding and vaccinations.

“We are currently developing our Te Toi Ahorangi strategy for te Moana a Toi (the Bay of Plenty). We are looking forward to being Toi Ora driven as we work to influence waiora, whānau ora and mauri ora for our tamariki and their whānau.”

Phone 0800 TALKTEETH (0800 825 583) or 0800 935 5543 to make an appointment to have your child’s teeth checked. For more details see www.bopdhb.govt.nz and search Talk Teeth.

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