Counties Manukau has a high proportion of Maori (17%) and Pacific peoples (22%) and its population will grow by 25% by 2020. That brings increasing demands on health services at a time when there is a global shortage of medical professionals and a significant under-representation of Maori (only 6%) and Pacific Islanders (8%) in clinical staff groups.

Helped by a $2.25 million donation from The Tindall Foundation for the 2010–2013 period, the Counties Manukau District Health Board has set out to address the issue. Health Science Academies in two Manukau secondary schools, tertiary scholarships for 25 Maori and Pacific Health Science students annually, and a midwifery course that aims to graduate 15 Maori midwives are part of this innovative approach.

According to Caroline Tichbon, Workforce Consultant at the Health Board, the academies enlisted 55 Year 11 students in 2011, with over 80% achieving NCEA Level 1 by the end of the first term in 2012. “Health outcomes improve when the health workforce reflects the community it serves,” Tichbon said.

That view is endorsed by a student of Pacific Island descent in Tangaroa College’s academy. “Seeing our people in hospital gives you a reason to go into health,” she reflected. “I will be the first one in my family to finish school and have a professional career.”

Contact Caroline: +64 9 276 0044 Ext: 2674