Jenni Stephenson and her family, about four weeks after her daughter was born.
Keeping the West Coast connected to the rest of the South Island is a valuable part of working with the Well Child Tamariki Ora (WCTO) Quality Improvement team, says Jenni Stephenson, of West Coast DHB Planning and Funding. “Organising services here on the Coast is often about trying to come up with different solutions, and in the WCTO space we are constantly thinking about how we reach all our Tamariki when they’re spread out over such a vast area. Connecting with the regional WCTO team means the Coast is connected to new ideas and innovations – and that’s really important.”
Jenni joined DHB Planning and Funding over five years ago, when the focus was to support the local Alliance between the DHB and West Coast PHO. Over time, she took on the role of providing support to two of the Alliance workstreams; Child and Youth Health and Healthy West Coast – the workstream responsible for public health issues, such as how to reach the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 target.
On a daily basis, Jenni’s goal is to help clinicians on the ground navigate through the various service developments, either through community need or Ministry direction. “I see my role as keeping the clinicians focused on what they do well, while also ensuring we’re staying abreast of national and international developments. I love working from an evidence base, so I spend a lot of my time trying to make what we’re doing visible and understandable. This allows decision makers to make informed choices about service delivery, which in turn makes sure the community are getting the best out of the health system.”
Originally from the North East of England, Jenni worked as an orthoptist for 10 years, which is an allied health profession that deals with the visual system; visual development in childhood and ocular motility. After Jenni’s OE in New Zealand with her now-husband, they decided rural New Zealand was where they wanted to bring up a family. Their son was just two years old when the family emigrated and Jenni took a position at the Manukau SuperClinic.
A couple of years later, they shifted to Christchurch – not quite rural yet – and Jenni stepped out of a clinical role while working in recruitment for Canterbury DHB. Following a few more years and many shakes, another baby and a wedding later, they finally made the leap to rural when Jenni took up her current role on the West Coast. “We love living here for many reasons. There is a real sense of community, which had sadly gone from many places we have lived before and we love that the kids (now 13 and seven) have a den in the bush right off our back garden. I love that within minutes we can be lost in the rainforest or building a shelter on the beach or swimming in a river. However, most of our time is spent running the kids to all of their activities, renovating our wee house that was just about falling down when we moved in and somehow finding time for our secret obsession; MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games).”
Jenni enjoys the collegial support in the WCTO QI group and one of her current projects is the West Coast Maternity Strategy, which offers a life course approach to preparing for pregnancy, being pregnant, birthing and becoming a parent on the Coast. “What motivates me is my family but also knowing we’re doing the right thing. For me, this comes back to the evidence and for WCTO, the Quality Improvement indicators. I would love to see a whole of system record for WCTO that allows each region to be really sure about which families are receiving services and which aren’t.”