Koke Aanauatasi is relishing her new role as a community health worker. The former Counties Manukau Health cleaner loves the opportunity to help people within her community.
Ms Aanauatasi’s new job is part of a COVID-19 response for the Pacific community, focused on making sure people can access surgeries that were delayed due to the virus. The initiative sits within the Fanau Ola expansion team under Pacific Health.
The team is made up of four fixed term roles; three community health workers (including Ms Aanauatasi) and a social worker, explains Harriet Pauga, Fanau Ola Service Manager and Nurse Lead.
Ms Pauga says COVID-19 has compounded the disparities in health outcomes that exist for Pasifika people.
“Because of COVID, more people are missing their pre surgery or assessment appointments. There are financial stressors and loss of livelihoods, hence certain appointments are no longer a priority,” she says.
Ms Aanauatasi’s role is to uncover the reasons people might be missing their appointments and try to find solutions, Ms Pauga says.
“We know from research that health literacy is one of the huge barriers in navigating the Pasifika population to access timely medical care. Ms Aanauatasi understands and lives in their culture and can speak the language. She can deep dive into the needs of these families. Developing our Pacific workforce into healthcare roles is also a move towards greater equity,” she says.
A typical day for Mrs Auanaua involves several home visits, driving people to appointments and calling people on the phone to find out the reasons for missed appointments. She also helps people access food parcels and other social services where required.
Mrs Auanauatasi says she already performs a lot of helping roles within her family and church so it made sense to take on the role of community health worker. The new job has made her keen to do further study and, while she does miss cleaning, her family is very glad she now works day shifts.