Former All Blacks legend Keven Mealamu was a tough man on the field. Off the field, he's encouraging men to be just as tough about their physical wellbeing during June for Men's Health Month.
The campaign, run by Men's Health Trust NZ, aims to raise awareness about preventable health problems, early detection and treatment.
On average, one man in Aotearoa dies every three hours of a preventable illness with death rates for Māori men double that of non-Māori men.
The 43-year-old hooker from Tokoroa told Te Ao Māori News about his involvement in the programme, encouraging men to see a doctor.
“When you think about Pacific Island and Māori men being the providers, your time is spent looking after or doing things for other people. The person you forget about is you.
Our men are strong and proud. Being able to put some time into looking after ourselves means we can do what we love to do even longer.”
Mealamu says getting rid of fear is a big factor.
“I think fear is a big part of something you don’t want to hear. It’s often a barrier for us to have those conversations.”
The Check Mates PI programme is an opportunity for Māori and Pasifika men to help transform their lives.
“[It’s about] being able to not only set up a place for them to feel comfortable and to have these conversations but also to look at self-care. We can put that word out there but if you don’t know what it is or how to do that, it becomes a real challenge or a chore.
“It’s hard to jump into the deep end and just say ‘go and get checked’, right? So it’s about building those relationships first. Then we start building enough trust and finding people that our men are comfortable with.”