The 13 members of the Health Consumer Advisory Service range in age from 19 to 90, come from different backgrounds and regions, and bring a range of skills and experience. Most importantly, they are committed to partnering with healthcare providers to improve the quality of care and health and wellbeing outcomes for all New Zealanders.
The Health Consumer Advisory Service (HCAS) was established by the Ministry of Health in 2015 and is run 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 task forces, reviews and advisory groups of government departments, public sector health agencies and private healthcare providers.
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.
Barbara comes from a Pacific Island (Fiji) background and resides in South Auckland. She is 90 years of age and 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.
When Karen she was in her 40s, 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”.
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.”
Ko Ngapuhi me Te Rarawa toku iwi.
Kei Kerikeri ahau e noho ana me toku tane.
Ko Claudia Johns toku ingoa.
Tehei mauri ora!
Claudia is passionate about health being reframed as wellbeing and addressing physical health as one area of many that contribute to an individual's holistic health. Other determinants (her preferred resource for this is Te Wheke by Dr Rangimarie Rose Pere) must be examined to enable wellbeing to flourish for Maori people, whanau and communities.
She says embracing Maori models of care and HCAS will benefit the system as a whole for both workers and consumers, while simultaneously ensuring intergenerational traumas are addressed and resolved. She believes this work will be transformational.
Claudia has lived experience both directly and through her whanau of mental ill health, domestic violence, sexual violence, drug and alcohol addictions, homelessness and cultural disconnection. She also experienced subsequent re-engagement, extensive travel and living overseas before returning home, eventually moving back to Te Tai Tokerau permanently.
"I'm very excited and humbled by the opportunity to work in the HCAS team, and hope my unique perspective contributes in a meaningful way."
Iti noa ana, he pito mata. With care, a small kumara will produce a harvest.
Te Whanganui a tara/Wellington
Andrew is of Tongan and Niuean descent and hails from Windy Wellington. He is a current stay-at-home dad/student working casually as a residential youth worker for Oranga Tamariki and more recently Real, the youth brand of the health care service Pathways.
Being a father of five, he is kept on his toes, with the eldest doing her final year at secondary school to the youngest just turning one.
Andrew is no stranger to the public health system. His five-year-old daughter lives with chronic asthma and is a regular at the paediatric ward at Wellington Hospital. Her admission to the ICU motivated Andrew to join Health Navigator as a healthcare advisor not only to help others to gain better access to the services available through the healthcare system but also to help fellow pacific peoples who struggle with the health literacy demands placed on them by the health system and providers.
Andrew is a service user and has been with ACC now for the past year-and-a-half due to multiple concussions from his past life as a semi-professional rugby/rugby league player. There is help out there for others like him who have suffered head trauma and it is his mission to make this help as accessible as possible.
Leota Alice Meredith
O le ala i le pule, o le tautua - The pathway to leadership is through service.
Alice describes herself as a “southside babe” living in Otara South Auckland from a very early age after moving to New Zealand from Samoa.
Consequently, she has a passion for Pacific people and the pacific community as a whole. Alice has a strong desire to be part of the solution to the health problems her fellow Pasefika face, through networking and service to others.
Alice has been a voluntary community advocate and worker for over 30 years. She says her proudest moment is the fact that she was able to be a mother to son Atticus and daughter Alycea, who are both now young adults.
A love of life-time learning saw Alice recently embark on a postgraduate degree in bicultural supervision.
“Reciprocal communication in a bilingual and multilinguistic environment is vital to ensuring we are well informed and resourced adequately in our respective communities.”
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 practices 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 Mapuna Samuels
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.
Hannah is a young New Zealander that grew up in a single-parent family setting with a Fijian Rotuman heritage. She is ardent that the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is valuable to any individual to maintain a quality led life. Hannah grew up supporting her mother who faced health challenges due to choices surrounding her individual health. Her mother failed to prioritise her health needs over helping those within her community. Hannah’s family situation helped her to recognise the other families throughout Aotearoa that also faced similar challenges igniting her passion for change and health.
She is currently studying a Bachelor of Health at Victoria University of Wellington majoring in both Health Promotion and Health Policy. Being a part of HCAS Hannah is able to apply not only the life experiences she has encountered but also use the knowledge she has gained through studying to help make a difference. She believes that to lead is to serve and her active involvement throughout her schooling years saw her rise into leadership roles that served those connections to make positive choices today.
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.
Kelli-Anne Te Huki
Ko Rangitimau te māunga
Ko Waipoua te awa
Ko Ngāti Kahungunu me Rangitāne ōku iwi
Kelli-Anne is well versed in the consumer space. Since dealing with mental distress from her teens, and chronic pain since 2017, she has embraced the knowledge and resilience these experiences have taught her.
Alongside her role with us, she is also involved with the National Rōpū for Te Kete Pounamu as the youngest member, the advisory council for the Southern District Health Board, a Rākau Roroa as a regional leader, and a certified facilitator as well as working at OUSA (Otago University Students Association) as the Queer Support Coordinator responsible for providing support for all queer and questioning students at the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic.
She is passionate about raising awareness and reducing inequalities relating to the LGBTQIA+ community, mental health and distress, rangatahi and Māori, access needs, and intersectionality. She is committed to making a positive impact and is a natural advocate.
Wui Ting (Wendy) Voon
Wendy is a migrant to New Zealand and is passionate about advocacy for migrant populations and Asian communities. In her early teens, she experienced mental distress related to the death of a beloved family member. Since then, she has experienced both recovery and relapse and accessed mental health services for support.
During her time in New Zealand, Wendy has encountered other migrants who have experienced mental distress due to lack of social support and high stress after migration. This experience has made her realise the importance of raising public awareness about the challenges faced by migrant populations and their lack of knowledge about healthcare entitlements and healthcare systems in New Zealand.