Access and Choice

19th October 2022 | Back to News
Access and Choice
Georgia, Tairawhiti's first Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP). She is working out of Three Rivers Medical Centre on Customhouse Street. Picture by Liam Clayton.

Helping people achieve health goals.
Tairāwhiti has its first Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP), —a qualified health professional who will support GPs by offering free consults to help whānau improve their health and wellbeing.

My aim is to find out what is meaningful to a person and get curious about how we can start doing more of those things, then from that place we make a plan.

The HIP role is part of the government's Access and Choice programme led by Turanga Health.

“Turanga Health is delighted to have someone of the calibre of Georgia* to kick off the service,” primary health practitioner Dr Patrick McHugh said.

“Georgia has trained and worked as a HIP elsewhere and brings a wealth of talent and enthusiasm to the position.”

Based at Three Rivers Medical Centre, Georgia is offering free consultations to anyone motivated to learn skills and set goals with a qualified therapist.

A HIP is a health professional with mental health experience who supports patients to take positive steps to improve their wellbeing/hauora. The HIP is based at a medical practice.

Georgia considers her consultations to be holistic in nature and is guided by Te Whare Tapa Wha — a wellbeing model developed in 1984 by Māori health advocate Sir Mason Durie.

The model describes wellbeing as a wharenui/meeting house with “four walls” — taha wairua/spiritual wellbeing; taha hinengaro/mental and emotional wellbeing; taha tinana/physical wellbeing; taha whānau/family and social wellbeing.

The whenua/land forms the foundation.

When all these are in balance, people thrive. When one or more is out of balance, wellbeing is impacted.

Georgia's consultations (lasting around 30 minutes) are focused on providing evidence-based, brief intervention strategies.

There are no waiting times for this service. Even same-day appointments are available by calling the clinic at the start of the day.

“This role is set up to be effective from an early intervention and/or prevention standpoint,” Georgia says. “Nobody needs to have a ‘diagnosis' or meet a certain ‘threshold' to qualify for a free consult. All you need is a desire to set goals and make change so that you can live your best life.”

It is not a replacement to specialist mental health intervention.

The HIP role is a bonus service people can choose to try if they want some extra support.

“It is my role to provide some encouragement and accountability to the tangata whaiora (a person seeking health) until they reach those goals. If the goal is not reached, we go back to the drawing board and find a goal that suits better.”

Georgia said she felt lucky to be able to walk alongside people as they found their spark again. “This is the greatest privilege.”

In 2019, the Government invested $664 million in the Access and Choice programme to be rolled out over five years. The aim is to improve access to the care tangata whaiora need.

Dr McHugh said the Access and Choice team would grow over time with health coaches and more HIPs to be employed.

“Turanga Health is in the process of recruiting and training further HIPs and health coaches from the local community and will be rolling out the service to other local primary care services.”

Georgia will also be providing free yoga and mindfulness group sessions to all patients at Three Rivers Medical at the location yet to be confirmed.

* The Herald did not provide Georgia's surname because of the nature of her work and the confidentiality around it.

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