Uplifting and food for the soul, singing is a way Tangata Atumotu Pasifika Mobile Community Nurse and Health Promoter Suli Tuitaupe is helping to ease older Pacific people’s growing anxiety in the current climate.
Of Samoan heritage, Suli was born and raised in Christchurch.
The Flight Attendant come Fitness Trainer come Nurse says singing and music are embedded in Pacific culture and are celebrated at the Canterbury Pacific health and social provider Tangata Atumotu.
Suli, who also works as a Practice Nurse at Eastcare Health, is one of four part-time mobile nurses working with about 150 mostly Pacific, but also some Māori and Muslim clients, with long-term conditions.
When the COVID-19 level two alert was announced, the Tangata Atumotu nursing team was looking to support their older clients by doing house-to-house visits to sing hymns and deliver essential needs bags.
But the speedy shift to level three, then level four curtailed that plan.
Instead the team has been ringing each client to check on their wellbeing, check their awareness of home isolation and COVID-19 symptoms and help liaise getting medications and flu shots.
“Then we’ve done a bit of a singalong hymn on the phone and finish the phone consult with a prayer,” Suli says.
“We sing mostly to our matua – we have a tradition in our team fono and in our programmes to sing a song or hymn from a different nationality.
“We have continued that tradition with our patients - our matua love singing church hymns so we invite them to sing to us on the phone.”
Suli’s singing talent comes naturally – the only training he has had is with the school choir and at church, he says.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown, Suli has noticed the older Pacific community members are facing issues around understanding COVID-19 protocols, comprehending the support available, financial struggles, social isolation from loved ones, social connectivity, anxiety and having uncertainty of the future.
In efforts to address these issues, the Tangata Atumotu team has been providing holistic phone consultations to assess patients physical, mental, spiritual and financial needs.
“This includes checking their current health status, flu immunisations, medications, supports required, and offering advice from timing of church services and exercise classes on free-to-air television or the 1pm latest COVID-19 news information – before concluding consults with a prayer and the occasional hymn.”
During the lockdown, the holistic phone consultations have proven to be beneficial in linking up with the patient and their families, Suli says.
“It also highlights the importance of staying connected and enabling our communities to navigate services, supports, information and resources when required.”
As an essential health and social service provider, Tangata Atumotu is partnering with a number of agencies to deliver support and maintain healthcare needs for Pacific individuals and families in the Canterbury region.
“We are also supporting and advocating for our Pasifika COVID-19 positive patients and their families in the community while attending to the needs of our most vulnerable.”
Suli says his passion for Pasifika health and wellbeing stems from helping, empowering, inspiring and motivating communities to take ownership of their health status and wellness, to advocate for the most vulnerable, and ultimately improve health outcomes for ‘aiga and communities.
“O lou soifua maloloina lelei - health is wealth,” he says.