James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Closing the gaps: On the road back to health

Mr Jason Tamaiti Kihi Phillips with his daughters Marty, left, and Jodie. At rare are Whanau Ora team leader Gail Pohipi and Whanau Ora navigator Selina Koloi. Photo / Alan Gibson
Mr Jason Tamaiti Kihi Phillips with his daughters Marty, left, and Jodie. At rare are Whanau Ora team leader Gail Pohipi and Whanau Ora navigator Selina Koloi. Photo / Alan Gibson

Jason Tamaiti Kihi Phillips admits he was one of those guys who was too shy to ask for medical help until it was nearly too late.

After years of not loking after his health, the 44-year-old from Hamilton found out in 2003 he had renal failure.

"I used to be one of those people that used to do that, don't go to the doctor until it's too late - I just about died before I first went."

Mr Tamaiti Kihi Phillips' weight ballooned to 235kg but with the help of a Whanau Ora intervention he has lost more than a third of his bodyweight.

And he's not finished yet.

The father of four approached Whanau Ora provider Te Kohao Health in Hamilton late last year after moving to the city from Turangi.

"They can come down to our level. Before I was a bit shy to go and ask for help.

"They point you in the right direction," he said.

Te Kohao helped him deal with the Housing New Zealand four-bedroom home he moved into last year with his wife, three of his four children and 3-year-old grandson.

The home was cold which exacerbated the complications he had from the renal failure he suffered, including recurring chest infections.

"It was pretty cold until we got curtains, it's made a big difference," he said..

"We are getting a heat pump too, it's not here yet but we should have it by winter."

Mr Tamaiti Kihi Phillips is wheelchair bound, needs a new hip, suffers from arthritis and has been on dialysis treatment since 2009.

He said picking his children up from school was often difficult but through Whanau Ora and Winz his family have bought bicycles for his children to get to school.

He has a family action plan under which he meets Te Kohao Health's Whanau Ora "navigators" and a case manager from Winz who help him with working with government agencies such as Winz and Housing New Zealand every three months.

Te Kohao also provides an exercise and nutrition consultant who helps him with water therapy twice a week to assist his weight-loss programme.

"I weighed 235kg but over the past six years I've lost 84[kg]. My immediate plan is to get to 140kg but long-term I need to get to 120kg for a kidney transplant."

"I've gone this far so I'll keep going."

Q&A Whanau Ora

What is Whanau Ora?
Whanau Ora (Well Families) is a Government welfare policy initiated by the Maori Party. It is open to everyone, but its focus is on Maori families.

How does it work?
Social agencies work with whanau to help identify and improve problem issues such as poor housing, health, education and legal problems. They ask the family to plan a future which moves them from state dependency to become financially independent and healthy participants in their community.

How much funding does it receive?
Whanau Ora receives $40 million of government money money each year. This year, responsibility for awarding contracts will be held by three non-governmental commissioning agencies, to be set up from within the community sector.

- NZ Herald

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