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Calling the next generation of kaitiaki

Thursday, November 15, 2018   Posted in: Training By: Administrator With tags: funding, environmental health, education, qualification, maori

No work day is ever the same for Laura Bruce.

For the last eight years, Laura has been investigating public health concerns and providing advice and information to community leaders and the public in her role as a Health Protection Officer.

“My favourite part of the job is getting out of the office and into field work, which might be exotic mosquito monitoring, ship inspections or visiting water treatment plants,” Laura says.

Laura is eager to see more young people enter the profession and take advantage of a Community and Public Health scholarship, which supports Ngāi Tahu undergraduate students at the University of Canterbury towards a career in Health Protection.

“There is lots of variety in the role,” Laura says.

“As a trainee Health Protection Officer you could be involved with ship sanitation inspections, disease outbreak investigations, responding to chemical spills or advocating for policies which create environments that promote population health.”

It’s a Friday afternoon when Laura visits Rāpaki Marae. She is meeting with Rāpaki hapū member Christina Henderson to discuss what they are doing to make their waterways safe and healthy now and in the future.

“Community and Public Health and Papatipu Rūnaka play an important part in protecting and supporting our cultural values around our waterways where our mahinga kai are concerned. This understanding of cultural values around our food gathering process ensures our kids will not have to worry about where they swim or gather kai,” says Christina.

Soon after, Laura is off to inspect an incoming ship that has arrived in Lyttelton Port from Singapore. Laura is tasked with ensuring the ship poses no biosecurity or communicable disease threats to New Zealand.

A crew member leads Laura round the ship where she looks to identify any possible hazards. Laura was part way through studying a BSc in Biology at the University of Canterbury, when Health Protection work “jumped out” at her. She then went on to complete a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Health.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says the scholarship has been established to increase the number of Health Protection Officers of Ngāi Tahu descent.

“As tangata whenua, the land is integral to who we are. The health of the land and waterways have a significant impact on wellbeing. We need more of our people in positions that can influence the health of our environment.”

Find out more about the Ngāi Tahu Health Protection Scholarship (University of Canterbury). Applications close on Sunday 31st March 2019.

Healthy Christchurch Champions

  • Canterbury District Health Board
  • Christchurch City Council
  • Environment Canterbury
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ngai Tahu
  • NZ Police
  • Pegasus Health
  • University of Otago, Christchurch