After recognising a gap for mothers-to-be who needed extra support beyond the Well Child Tamariki Ora (WCTO) programme, Motueka Pūkenga Kaiwhakahaere Nurse Manager Lydia Mains created the Tūhono Service.
The kaupapa Māori programme, for young Māori parents in Waikawa and Motueka needing intensive and personalised support to nurture their babies, aims to strengthen connections and fill any gaps as early on as possible.
“We work closely with these women as they head into parenthood. They may not have family support or a secure relationship, or they may have had a traumatic childhood themselves. They could also have a mental health or addiction issue. It’s about early intervention, so their babies have the best start to life possible.”
Lydia and the team provide home visits to the parents, developing close, trusting relationships with them. “We provide support for any challenges they may be facing, so they can be the best parent possible and focus on enjoying their babies. To start with, we help them choose a midwife and look at any other needs they may have, such as finding suitable accommodation. You can’t address the need until you organise the chaos in their lives, while they’re in survival mode.”
Lydia followed her passion for Māori health, family and whānau throughout her career, after graduating with a nursing degree in 2000 and completing a post-grad qualification in WCTO. After working in Māori and sexual health in Nelson for a few years, Lydia became a WCTO nurse for Motueka, where she formed strong community connections.
In 2014, she began a role with Te Piki Oranga, a kaupapa Māori primary health provider for Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui (the top of the South) as a Māori community health nurse. A year later, Lydia was promoted to nurse manager, leading a multidisciplinary team working with referrals for vulnerable Māori. “It’s a real privilege to be working with whānau on such a holistic level,” she says.
Lydia developed the Tūhono Service last year after funding for the programme was approved by the Ministry of Health. “Navigating the health system can be hard and scary, so we support them to access these services independently. If they are feeling anxious about anything, they can just call or text their navigator for a debrief, comfort or just reassurance that they’re doing the right thing.”
The service also aims to connect them with their Māoritanga. “This can have a really positive effect on their health and wellbeing. Not only does it provide a sense of belonging and help them feel more connected to their culture, but they also want their children to grow up knowing where they came from.”
Watching the mother’s self-esteem and confidence grow is amazing, Lydia says. “It’s so rewarding to be able to be a consistent person in their lives. We want them to have access to high quality care, so they can reflect back and feel well supported – and have a positive outlook for the next stage.”
Lydia, who has a 19-year-old daughter, joined the South Island WCTO Quality Improvement Steering Group in 2019. Her extensive experience and wealth of knowledge is an asset to the team. “I really enjoy working with likeminded people, as we bring our own specialties to the table and collectively find solutions to any issues we’ve identified. It’s great that whenever I find any gaps or see how something could be done better through my nursing manager role, I can take those queries to a higher level and focus on making those improvements.”