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Wellbeing Initiative by EIT | Te Pūkenga Masters graduate and tutor improves health outcomes in Maraenui

June 23, 2023

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise (left) with EIT | Te Pūkenga Masters graduate and tutor Levi Armstrong and Associate Professor Rachel Forrest.

A wellbeing initiative developed by EIT | Te Pūkenga Masters graduate and tutor Levi Armstrong (Ngāti Kahungunu) has not only improved health outcomes for participants in the Maraenui community but provided pathways into education and employment.

The M.E.K.E Initiative, supported by the Napier City Council and the Hawke’s Bay Medical Research Foundation, brought three home-grown Kaupapa together – the DOMYNIS, PATU and the MEKE METER.

Levi, along with his wife and Masters graduate Dana Armstrong, Associate Professor Rachel Forrest, and Maria Pearson of EIT | Te Pūkenga, with external researcher Dr Fiona Cram, received a post-COVID equity grant for Rangahau Māori from the Health Research Council (HRC) for the research project that examined the impact of the initiative on the Maraenui community.

A key focus of the research was the ‘DOMYNIS’ – a gym in a container – which spent two months on Marine Parade, before moving to Maraenui.

“Reconnecting the community and enhancing whanaungatanga in Maraenui by providing gathering places both in the community and online has been crucial to the success of the M.E.K.E. Initiative which is nothing without the people,” Levi says.

He says the impact of the initiative has gone beyond taking health and fitness to the people.

“Beyond physical benefits, research has shown the initiative to significantly impact the psychological wellbeing of whānau. It has not only enhanced the hauora of individuals but has inspired some to become trainers and help others.”

Levi and Rachel presented the findings of the research report on the M.E.K.E Initiative to Napier City Council at a meeting earlier this month.

Levi says being able to give his whānau a voice, and for them to be there at council with him, was immense.

“I don’t think we would have done it without the whānau and the community, so getting the voice and bringing the voice of our whānau behind us to the table and letting them be heard.” 

The Initiative has gained nationwide recognition and will be scaled out across Aotearoa with Taupō opening up a POD in July.

Rachel says they used an appreciative inquiry approach which looked for the strengths and solutions within the community to reinforce and empower the community to help themselves.

“The M.E.K.E Initiative was a catalyst and provided a way to connect people. It brought whanaungatanga back to the Maraenui community. It acted like an urban Marae.”

A total of 17 one-on-one individual interviews and nine focus group interviews were conducted.

“It was about bringing out those qualities that were already there within the community and giving people a way to access the mana that was already there,” Rachel says.

Levi says he loves the relationship they have developed with EIT | Te Pūkenga.

“I am a big advocate for EIT | Te Pūkenga, it changed my life as a student and now I am pleased to be able to reconnect. We’ve got a group of students in the room and seeing them change has been exceptional. It’s been amazing. And seeing them graduate through not just the NZ Certificate in Foundation Skills (Exercise and Wellbeing) [Level 2] but the Level 4 Certificate in Exercise.”

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said: “It’s been an absolute privilege here at Napier City Council to be a part of this journey and watch what you’ve achieved over the last two, three years”.

She acknowledged and congratulated Levi and his wife Dana for both achieving a Masters in Health Science with Distinction from EIT | Te Pūkenga.

“It’s great to have leaders such as yourselves that actually introduce initiatives and projects like this for the wellbeing of our community, so thank you for everything that you’ve done,” she told Levi.