Pacific Stop Smoking Services Receives Government Funding as National Smoke-Free Goal Approaches

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Associate Ministers of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall and Aupito William Sio visited K’aute Pasifika in Hamilton last week to announce funding for Pacific Stop Smoking Services.

The national smoke-free deadline of 2025 is approaching and to get everyone on board, the government has committed $8 million for six quit smoking programs in the Pacific.

Associate Ministers of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall and Aupito William Sio on Friday announced the funding commitment of the Pacific Islands community of Hamilton, Trust K’aute Pasifika, and also announced the creation of a group advisory dedicated to Smokefree Pacific.

The funding will be split among six Pacific healthcare providers, including K’aute Pasifika, over the next four years.

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The other five contractors are Pacific Health Plus in Porirua, Pacific Health Services Hutt Valley, Tangata Atumotu in Christchurch, South Seas Healthcare in South Auckland and The Fono in West Auckland.

Statistics from Smokefree New Zealand show that around 5,000 New Zealanders die each year from smoking.

Verrall says the tools used so far to help people quit smoking haven’t helped everyone.

“Tobacco-related harm is still prevalent in our Pacific communities, with Pacific people being over-represented among the negative health effects caused by smoking.”

She says the funding will be used to “provide tailored smoking cessation services” for Pacific communities across the country.

Sio says, just as the Samoan proverb e fofo e le alamea le alamea says, the remedy for crown of thorns poisoning by the alamea starfish is the starfish itself (because it is believed to is able to suck the poison when turned on its back), New Zealand communities in the Pacific hold the solutions themselves to help their people quit smoking.

Ministers Sio and Verrall with K'aute Pasifika CEO Rachel Karalus and guests including Hamilton MP Jamie Strange and Hāpai te Haora staff and CEO Selah Hart.  Photo / Provided
Ministers Sio and Verrall with K’aute Pasifika CEO Rachel Karalus and guests including Hamilton MP Jamie Strange and Hāpai te Haora staff and CEO Selah Hart. Photo / Provided

“Pacific suppliers live and work in their communities and have built relationships and trust with them. This [government] the investment will help support the delivery of culturally appropriate and innovative tobacco control programs that best meet the needs of Pacific communities. »

He says he felt like he belonged to “smokers anonymous” because he himself smoked until he quit in December 2000.

“I didn’t really want to start, but growing up all the grown men around me were smoking and we kids ended up shooting something that was thrown.”

Verrall says that during her time as a doctor in Wellington, she saw firsthand the impact of smoking on people’s health.

“What we need to do is denormalize smoking.”

K’aute Pasifika CEO Leaupepe Rachel Karalus said that with her share of the funding, the trust is developing a quit smoking program around waka ama.

“Our people are moana people…so it’s normal that our program uses waka ama.”

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, K'aute Pasifika CEO Rachel Karalus and Pacific Peoples Minister Aupitio William Sio in Hamilton last Friday.  Photo / Danielle Zollickhofer
Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, K’aute Pasifika CEO Rachel Karalus and Pacific Peoples Minister Aupitio William Sio in Hamilton last Friday. Photo / Danielle Zollickhofer

She says the program will be based on Pacific models of care and connect people with culture and identity.

“Thus, participants develop behaviors and strategies to quit smoking.”

The announcement was followed by New Zealand smoke-free advocates, including the team at Maori public health society Hapai to Hauora and their CEO Selah Hart, and director of the Pacific Health Action Initiative Tala Pasifika , Lealailepule Edward Cowley.

K’aute Pasifika founders Peta and Noel Karalus, Nga Metua Goodwright, Nemani and Asenaca Delaibatiki, Sione Viliami and Mata Pasisi were also present.

The rollout of the new services follows the launch of Smokefree May, a month of events across the country leading up to World No Smoke Day on May 31. The key message from the organizers of Smokefree May is “We’ve got your back”, showing support for people who are trying to quit smoking.

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