Whakarongorau - new Healthline service for Māori

By Marena Mane

Whānau who are looking for answers to any Covid-19 vaccine questions can now talk directly to Māori advisors.

The company that operates national telehealth services Healthline, Covid vaccine HealthLine, and Covid HealthLine has been working on an initiative to increase vaccination participation among whānau Māori.

Whakarongorau Aotearoa's telehealth services are available 24 hours a day and are free. They incorporate virtual health, mental health, and social services.

Chief experience officer Mary Lose says Whakarongorau is all about improving whānau Māori engagement on vaccination benefits.

"Remembering, of course, Whakarongorau Aotearoa is not a Kaupapa Māori organisation - we are a collective of generalised services committed to providing services with whānau," she says.

Lose said the company engaged and collaborated with the community to determine what kind of experience Māori would want and then sought cooperation from the Ministry of Health and iwi.

“The journey for whānau is variable … what is required by whānau is different because of that variability and we want to create a service that Māori feel comfortable with.”

Improving services to Māori

Lose says the biggest challenge is how to “create equity for Māori to deliver better outcomes.”

That meant giving Māori an even level playing field of service and care in a health sector that was not designed for them.

She says this Māori vaccination pathway serves as a case study for the company to improve its service to whānau Māori and ensure that people's first encounter with the service is good.

“What we know is that our kaimahi love making the calls and taking calls from whānau and our whānau are really enjoying being able to whakawhanaungatanga, building the trust in the system and better outcomes for our whānau.”

Aotearoa has four contact centres, with Kaikohe, owned by Ngāpuhi, the largest and employing its kaimahi, 90% of whom had never worked before. Te Arawa operates another contact centre in Rotorua. Heretaunga is run by a Māori provider in Hastings, and Tāmaki  is run by Ngāti Whatua.

“So the investment to build capability and leave it in those communities with our whānau is really important to us in this mahi.”

Lose says 14 months she had 48 Māori colleagues, and now has 313 Māori kaimahi running the Māori campaigns.

“We did this by leaning into the cultural excellence that existed in communities and we partnered with Māori organisations and iwi.”