It is by Māori, for Māori. It is driven by iwi and hapū, not by government or health organisations. It is on the marae, not at the medical centre. And, it is proving successful.
A group of Ngāti Tūwharetoa women have picked up the Smear Your Mea campaign and are offering cervical smears for wāhine Māori in a comfortable cultural environment - the marae.
The new approach is paying off, persuading previously reluctant women to have their cervical smears.
Waitahanui community worker Janice Wall, nurse practitioner Hine Loughlin and health support workers Sharon Fletcher from Tūwharetoa Health, Carol Mitchell from Anamata Cafe and Shayna Rameka from Pinnacle Health have all worked together to bring the Smear Your Mea campaign to wāhine Māori from the Taupō area. The campaign was originally inspired by the late Talei Morrison from Rotorua, who instigated Smear Your Mea after her own diagnosis of cervical cancer.
Smear Your Mea was first offered locally at the Tūwharetoa Taiopenga (kapa haka festival) last September with 40 women taking up the offer of a free smear and a hoodie. Then the group started thinking about how to reach more and decided to try offering smears on local marae to make it a comfortable place for wāhine Māori to go.
Janice says Smear Your Mea is unique in this area as it is the first health initiative being run by the hapū and iwi rather than via health organisations or government.
"We are just ladies that got together and said we want to get behind a kaupapa like this. This is about the wāhine of Ngāti Tūwharetoa driving this themselves to protect each other.
"If we can create that comfortable environment for them to come to, that's what we're doing."
The first session, held at Waitahanui's Pākira Marae last Saturday, was a big success with the team hitting its target of 15 women which Janice says was "pretty amazing".
"I'm so proud of our whānau. A lot of our women are so shy. When it comes to something like this, a lot of women just close up and just would rather not. They don't want to talk about it, they won't go and do it. Here we have got Māori practitioners and they are women, which is much more inviting for our whānau."
As a bonus, the first 15 women at each marae session are presented with a hoodie with the Smear Your Mea logo.
There was also morning tea in the wharekai where Carol, Sharon and Shayna helped women fill in their paperwork, offered cups of tea and kai, cuddled babies and helped the wāhine feel comfortable and confident while waiting for their smear.
Ngatoru Wall was one of the wāhine who had come along for her smear. She said she was proud to be there to tautoko [support] the kaupapa.
"Because it's in a marae context, when you come, whether you're getting a smear or not, people come to tautoko the kaupapa and to manaaki, and that's the different point. It's not just coming to get the mahi done, people come to set the kai up and hold the babies, it's that whole cultural element not only the women but the men too. It's a whole holistic approach."
The initiative gained funding support from Te Pae o Waimihia which gave the funding for the kai and the hoodies. Taupō Medical Centre provided a second nurse practitioner to help at the Pākira Marae session. Taupō Health Centre provided the equipment, and Janice and Hine both donated their time.
Janice thinks the success of Smear Your Mea could potentially lead to other marae-based health initiatives such as breast screening.
"This is awesome for our iwi and I'm very proud to be involved in something like this."
Nurse practitioner Hine Loughlin says what had really made the morning a standout for her was that four women who had been hard to get to come in for smears, had felt comfortable enough to come to the marae.
Hine works hard to ensure that women have a positive experience, by speaking Māori and using kupu Māori, pronouncing their names correctly, connecting with them through whakapapa or from knowing them through hui, and not being afraid to bring in plenty of humour.
She says it's the personal connection that makes the difference.
"Janice, Shayna, Carol, Sharon - their whakapapa draws people together in an environment where people feel comfortable."
¦Smear Your Mea sessions will run at other local marae in upcoming weeks. They are Hirangi Marae, Tūrangi, Saturday May 11. Te Rangiita Marae, Taupō, Saturday July 13. Korohe Marae, Korohe, Saturday September 7. A free Smear Your Mea hoodie will be given to the first 15 wāhine per marae. To register, private message Janice Wall on Facebook.