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More Māori set to develop careers in primary care thanks to new qualification

New Zealand is well positioned to see more Maori enter the primary health care workforce thanks to a new tertiary qualification developed collaboratively by Wintec and PHO Pinnacle Midlands Health Network (Pinnacle MHN).

The first six students, all current community health workers from Waikato, Rotorua, and Hauraki-based Maori health providers, finished the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing Primary Care Practice Assistance 4 (Te Mahi Awhina Tuatahi 4) course last week.

Pinnacle MHN Maori health manager Rawiri Blundell said the one-year course is designed for Maori already working in the health environment who are specifically interested in developing a career in a primary care practice.

"We developed Te Mahi Awhina Tuatahi 4 together with Wintec in response to the very small number of Maori currently working in general practice.

"Research indicates that by 2036, the number of Maori among those aged 65-plus will go from 44,000 to a population of 121,000, an increase of 115 per cent[1]. Changes need to be made to the health workforce and health services in order to meet this demand."

"Essentially, we wanted to build a tertiary qualification to encourage a better representation of Maori with a career in primary care. We are confident that having more Maori in the workforce will help to achieve more equitable health care for Maori."

Team manager at Wintec's Postgraduate Centre for Health and Social Practice, Helen Nielsen, said throughout the course all six students gained practical experience working in healthcare teams under the direction and delegation of registered health professionals and support from practice managers.

"Course participants assist general practitioners, registered nurses, and management in the day to day operation of primary care practice including routine clinical tasks and procedures," she said.

According to Helen, successful completion of the qualification can enable course participants to progress on to higher levels of tertiary education.

"Options in health and wellbeing include New Zealand Certificate in Public Health and Health Promotion (Level 5), enrolled nursing studies or bachelor's degrees in health and wellbeing areas, including nursing or allied health disciplines."

Rawiri said Pinnacle MHN and Wintec worked to resolve some of the financial barriers that Maori experience when entering tertiary education.

"We sought funding for students through Waikato DHB Te Puna Oranga Maori health funding streams. Their support of this programme enabled the course to be subsidised for students, a benefit that will also apply to all those who are successful in applying for the programme in the near future."

Enrolments are now open for the next Te Mahi Awhina Tuatahi 4 course, which opens in February 2018. Applicants must have been working (paid or voluntarily) for at least 12.5 hours a week in a primary care practice setting such as general practice, Primary Health Care Organisation, Maori or Pasifika health trusts, by the start of the programme in February 2018.

Pinnacle MHN and Wintec are working to replicate this course across the Midland region which covers the central North Island with 24 per cent of the population of 853,725 people identifying as Maori, a much higher proportion than the national population.

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