Game-changing cardiac screening programme to reach all Māori across Waikato

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Cardiac disease is one of the five biggest killers of Māori, who on average die seven years earlier than non-Māori.

But a new outreach programme is expected to be a game-changer for Māori cardiac health in Waikato.

The Hāpaitia Te Hauora Manawa programme launched yesterday at Kirikiriroa Marae in Hamilton and is a first-of-its-kind service delivering in-home heart checks throughout the rohe.

The programme’s clinical nurse specialist Patumahoe Leaf-Wright explains that the programme will help with early screening, which she says is “the biggest thing we can do to help stop our Māori dying way too young”.

Whānau can get an early screening by booking through the programme’s website. But it’s not the only way that people have been getting word about it, as Leaf-Wright explains.

“Most of my referrals have come through partnerships with Māori health providers and primary health organisations in the communities. They know their communities so well and know where the need is. I’m happy to go out and help them.”

'Stop expecting people to come to us'

There are still barriers stopping Māori in rural areas from accessing this such as distance to and from home and putting off checkups, which Patumahoe acknowledges. But she wants to start “doing something to really change the game”.

“Let’s stop expecting people to come to us; it doesn’t work. Those barriers aren’t going away in a hurry, especially after Covid. It’s not getting any easier, so let’s take the service to them.”

Patumahoe reassures that the screening will just be like a catchup with someone to make that person as comfortable as possible, before getting into the screening itself.

“[It involves] lots and lots of kōrero before I would start to do any of my assessments, and then some basic ones. I’ll have a listen to your heart with my stethoscope, take an ECG recording to look at the heart rhythm. I can do blood tests and get the answers right there and then.

“I try to keep my approach, definitely, kōrero-based.”

Screenings are potentially the difference between life and death for whānau, especially with those she checks up on who are younger than her.

“[It’s] someone in their early 20s, and I’m finding something that in 20 years they would probably turn up to the hospital, probably at death's door, and have very limited options in terms of treatment.”

“Intervening at the right time and saving a life is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”