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Eke Tū: Gym instructor tackling invisible epidemic

28 July 2016
A gym instructor with years of experience working with rugby players, kids, and a special Olympian, heads a new Turanga Health programme helping patients live longer, healthier and more independent lives. And a small number of Three Rivers Medical patients are set to benefit.
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Bernie Semau heads the Eke Tū long term conditions programme.

“We are seeing more people develop the serious complications of chronic conditions at an earlier age – heart attacks and strokes, kidney, eye and foot problems, all increasing the risk of early death or major disability in relatively young people.” Dr Mark Devcich, Turanga Health Te Karaka.

Bernie Semau

Bernie Semau, 30, is leading Eke Tū, Turanga Health’s long term conditions programme. The new programme offers GPs somewhere to refer patients who need extra help making positive lifestyle changes to manage or prevent a chronic condition.

“When we say chronic condition we mean something like obesity, diabetes, or heart disease,” says Bernie.

“It is the invisible epidemics of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases that for the foreseeable future will take the greatest toll in deaths and disability in this region. However, it is by no means a future without hope,” says Bernie.

 “Eke Tū is a wraparound programme that will give the referred patients an opportunity to improve fitness, lose weight, and improve their overall physical and mental health.”

Twenty patients, 10 from Three Rivers Medical and 10 from Te Karaka, will be selected for the four month programme based on their risk factors identified by the referring GP.

“We are helping people who are showing signs of things like high blood pressure and a high Body Mass Index (BMI), as well as other clinical indicators pointing to challenges ahead for the patient.”

The programme has a strong focus on physical activity. Bernie, who was previously a gym instructor at Jetts Fitness Gisborne, has developed a varied and fun, but safe programme for the referred patients.

“Yes we go to the gym and we go swimming, but we have also built in plenty of outdoor exercise as well as yoga and relaxation techniques. The overall programme is monitored by a Turanga Health nurse.”

As well as physical exercise there is a strong educational component to the programme. “We want to teach our patients, empower them, to take a leading role in their own care. It’s about giving them knowledge and skills, and motivation, to make good decisions in daily life.”

Referring GP Mark Devcich says GPs and nurses are well aware of the need to take action to reduce the risk of early death for a patient. “We are seeing more people develop the serious complications of chronic conditions at an earlier age – heart attacks and strokes, kidney, eye and foot problems, all increasing the risk of early death or major disability in relatively young people.”

Dr Devcich says he will be able to refer patients to the Turanga Health programme knowing they’ll be offered intensive professional support to lose weight, improve their diet and increase physical activity – all known to reduce the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes.”