The 11 members of the Health Consumer Advisory Service come from around the country and bring a range of skills and experience, and most importantly, a passion for partnering with patients and their whānau/family to improve the experience, quality of care and outcomes for all.
The Health Consumer Advisory Service was established by the Ministry of Health in 2015 and is co-ordinated by the Health Navigator Charitable Trust to increase engagement of consumers in the design, planning and development of health services. Members draw on their skills and experience as health consumers to provide input as required to taskforces, reviews and advisory groups of government departments, public sector health agencies and private healthcare providers.
Gary is the coordinator of the Health Consumer Advisory Service. His health-related background is primarily in mental health, starting when he accessed mental health services due to experiencing depression and anxiety associated with an impending business failure in the early 1990s.
Over the 25-plus years since then, Gary has experienced both recovery and relapse, and learned much about himself and the mental health system. He joined the mental health workforce in 2004 and his work since then has included peer support, advocacy, leadership and management roles, as well as consumer audit work, training and development. He lives in Auckland with his wife of 44 years, and has 2 adult children and 5 granddaughters.
Gary retired from the workforce in April 2017 after 3½ years employed as a peer support specialist, self-management facilitator and health coach with East Tamaki Healthcare. However, in his ‘retirement’, he continues to be contracted as a consumer auditor of mental health and addictions services and does voluntary work in the community.
Gary’s assignment work to date as a health consumer advisor includes a governance role for the Kaiawhina Workforce Taskforce and the All of New Zealand Acute Coronary Syndrome – Quality Improvement Registry, and membership of a reference group for the development of an alcohol risk assessment communication tool for use in primary care.
In 2003, Marj was diagnosed with low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She underwent lengthy chemotherapy and, due to many co-morbidities, still regularly accesses both primary and secondary care.
Having cancer led her to become a consumer on the Southern Cancer Network, as well as starting the South Island Cancer Consumer Group and becoming vice chair of Cancer Consumer New Zealand.
Marj loves being able to give a consumer perspective when groups are working on quality improvement. Although for obvious reasons, cancer was her first consumer health passion, over time, long-term conditions have become prominent in her work. Marj networks with many groups, and finds this knowledge is helpful to draw on in her health consumer advisory roles.
In addition to her role with the Health Consumer Advisory Service, Marj’s other involvements include the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s Consumer Network, the Primary Care Survey Advisory Group and Advance Care Planning.
She has recently semi-retired to Pegasus, a new town just north of Christchurch.
As well as being a member of the Health Consumer Advisory Service, Martine is a member of the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s consumer network, and the deteriorating patient programme’s expert advisory group. From 2007 until early 2018, she worked in various roles for Manukau City Council and then Auckland Council, including as a disability policy advisor and disability strategic advisor. She now runs her own business as a disability advocate.
Martine describes her experiences navigating the New Zealand health system as a blind person since emigrating from South Africa in 1996 as “interesting and often challenging”.
She is currently treasurer of the World Blind Union, an international entity fostering the wellbeing and aspirations of blind and vision-impaired persons. At regional World Blind Union Asia-Pacific level, she is the regional UN advocacy network co-ordinator. In these roles, she has travelled the world to help build international capacity in disability services in developing countries, as well as to liaise in areas of systemic advocacy, specialising in access to the environment and transport.
Martine chairs Auckland Disability Law, the only disability-specific community law centre in New Zealand. She has held governance roles with the Workbridge Council, the Guide Dog Society, Disability Connect, Independent Living Service and Blind Citizens NZ.
Tasi comes from an administration and finance background. He started a career as a Tongan peer support specialist after training as a Stanford Leader in April 2015 and enjoys this role.
“It improves my health and also helps those with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, gout and lung problems to improve their wellness too.”
Tasi is employed as the general operations manager for Akiheuho, the Aotearoa Tongan Health Workers Association.
Prior to that, his most recent employment was with East Tamaki Healthcare as a health consultant, self-management education leader, master trainer for self-management education leaders, care planner and health coach.
As well as being a consumer health advisor, Tasi’s involvement in the community includes helping form the Anaumelie support group for Tongan people with long-term conditions, involvement with the Free Weslyan Church of Tonga in NZ, an executive member of the Pacific Leadership Forum and a member of the Fofo’anga Kava Club Aotearoa.
Barbara comes from a Pacific Island (Fiji) background and resides in South Auckland. She is almost 90 and is passionate about health issues, including being a well-respected advocate for the rights of disabled people.
She has a background in nursing and midwifery, with the greater part of her working life spent as a public health nurse, where she was acknowledged for her many health initiatives on marae communes, particularly with women and children on gang properties.
Barbara has lived with a neurological condition most of her life and has a number of other long-term health conditions, which means she uses a wheelchair for mobility.
As well as being a foundation member of this service, Barbara was also a foundation member of the Counties Manukau Consumer Council. She has been involved with the Disabled Women’s Forum and is an honorary member of the MS Society. Barbara is also a member of Social Housing for Disabled People and Health & Wellness of Disabled People in Auckland.
Since beginning her role as a health consumer advisor in May 2015, Barbara has been the most sought-after advisor, including in palliative care/end-of-life and overseeing the integration of the pharmacist services into the community with the Pharmacy Expert Advisory Group. Barbara has also been involved in developing the IT Health Strategy.
Karen lives in Dunedin. When she was in her forties, she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and CPPD – another type of arthritis. This was bad news for her, as she enjoyed skiing, windsurfing and her work as an ambulance officer. All these activities called for strong, stable knee joints, so a re-think about several facets of her life was required.
Since then, Karen has experienced widespread arthritis and has had several major surgeries on different joints and on her spine. Having been both a provider and a patient, she is well positioned to bring a consumer perspective to discussions around health provision and service, particularly around musculoskeletal and long-term conditions.
Karen has worked on various projects through being a member of the Health Consumer Advisory Service, including the Hepatitis C Implementation Advisory Group, Air Ambulance Service Group and projects relating to community pharmacies and community care of the elderly. Karen has also been involved as a consumer voice regarding re-stratification of patients in primary care to ensure the right level of care reaches the right people.
Karen has also been co-opted to help Community Health Council members as they are asked to provide consumer input into various projects within the Southern DHB.
Karen says it is a privilege to be involved in the Health Consumer Advisory Service and that, “It is a good feeling to understand that consumer voices are important, and listened to, as our health services move into the future”.
Mary Maringikura Campbell
A Cook Island Māori, Mary is passionate about healthcare providers treating people in a holistic manner that addresses their psychological and spiritual wellbeing as well as their physical health.
She sees it as important that healthcare providers understand health issues, especially mental health, in a wider societal context and in relation to extended family or whānau.
She has previously worked for Capital and Coast DHB as a consumer advisor, as well as for Women’s Refuge, and is now an independent mental health advisor.
Mary has developed her understanding of how to live well with mental distress from seeing both her parents cope with depression, as well as through her own experience of depression and her work helping others to live well with mental health issues.
“Mental distress, such as depression and anxiety, may be symptoms of other things going on in the person’s world.” This could include issues such as trauma, poverty, problems in the family or unaddressed physical health issues.
“Stigma is the biggest issue we have to deal with,” she says regarding mental health. “If you have a physical illness, that’s acceptable, it’s no one’s fault. However, if you have a brain illness, you are treated very differently. It’s really important that you treat the whole person because every organ is interconnected.”
Kylie is a mediation and coach services specialist with more than 20 years’ experience in senior management roles. In addition to mediating disputes, Kylie uses her personal experience of stroke to coach executive leaders through behavioural change and building resilience to problem solve and transition.
“I have had to explore the concept of resilience from my own perspective as well as in a number of conversations with people who have been through life-altering events,” she says.
Kylie commenced her role as a health consumer advisor in 2014, focusing on cardiovascular disease and stroke prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. She works with clinical teams to ensure patient-centered care.
Kylie is also a member of the National Stroke Network and the Northern Region Stroke Executive Network and actively pursues projects to improve patient health and wellness.
“Life-changing events are not something that you can plan for, which is often difficult for people to accept.”
Kevin has personal experience of a long-term condition as he has been blind for 36 years, and his wife also has long-term conditions. Kevin has been a disabled persons’ advocate for 36 years, participating at a New Zealand and international level.
Kevin also has extensive experience representing an organisation that supports consumer interests in health and disability services and substantial involvement in health consumer perspective roles. In addition to the Health Consumer Advisory Service, he has been a participant on the Canterbury District Health Board Consumer Council.
The Consumer Council gives members the mandate to identify and advise on issues requiring consumer and community participation, including input into the development of health service priorities and strategic direction. This role provided Kevin an understanding of the processes and obligations to be a quality participant on a formal panel like the Health Consumer Advisory Service, including the ability to contribute to discussions, express informed opinions, gather perspectives from networks and complete assignments within deadlines.
Through his roles, he has developed an appreciation of, and empathy with, cultural perspectives and practises that are necessary for effective health service delivery. Kevin also has extensive consumer networks and direct connections that allow him to provide a range of relevant and current perspectives and knowledge.
Kevin says he is enjoys being involved with the Health Consumer Advisory Service because it is an opportunity to take the views and information he already gathers in his current representations to both regional and national levels, and then bring any learnings from the Ministry of Health and other key health organisations back to his groups and networks.
Merle identifies with Ngai-te-rangi (Katikati, Western Bay of Plenty). She lives in the Auckland area with her 18-year-old granddaughter, having lived previously in other parts of Aotearoa New Zealand and in Australia. She supports a holistic approach to healthcare, where family/whānau, physical, spiritual and mental wellness are considered together.
Merle’s health experiences include osteoarthritis and having had a brain aneurysm several years ago. The opportunity to help to make a difference in peoples’ lives and to provide input from a Māori perspective is important to her.
She has been employed as part of the Wellness Support Team by East Tamaki Healthcare (Nirvana Healthcare) since 2013 as a patient advocate, cultural advisor, peer support specialist, Stanford self-management master trainer, facilitator and health coach, and she facilitates the Positive Parenting Programme in South Auckland.
Tama is currently working at Kokiri Marae in Seaview, Wellington as a smoking cessation advisor with Takiri Mai Te Ata Regional Stop Smoking Services. He has worked in the primary health sector (Kokiri Marae Hauora, GP services and Te Whanganui a Tara Māori Mental Health) and in secondary healthcare services (Capital & Coast DHB and Otago University research) for more than 25 years.
For most of that time, he has also worked in smoking cessation. He had a heart scare in 1994 which helped define his outlook on the importance of the “quality of life” rather than the “quantity of money to live a good life”. He uses this motto as a cornerstone of his work ethics when supporting whānau to improve their health and lifestyle. Helping others allows him to manage his own health issues with a positive attitude.
Tama is a sports enthusiast (armchair mostly, these days). He has played and coached rugby league for 50-plus years from schoolboy to senior representative level (and is the number one Warriors fan in his whānau). These days he takes great joy in supporting his 11 mokopuna participating in many sporting activities. He is a lifetime student in tikanga, te reo and mātauranga Māori.
Co-ordination and support
The consumer advisors' work is supported by Health Navigator Charitable Trust clinical director Dr Janine Bycroft, and they also work closely with the long-term conditions team from the Ministry of Health led by Karen Evison.