Using primary data from interviews with community stakeholders and secondary data from research, eight Nursing students carried out a community assessment for Whanganui. They identified two vulnerable populations with health needs they wanted to address: the emotional wellbeing of primary school-aged tamariki, and the oral health of both pre-school and primary school-aged tamariki. The students chose to focus on tamariki Māori, who statistically have more health needs than the general child population, and because the proportion of Māori in Whanganui is higher than the national population average.
The Nursing students identified that tamariki Māori are at higher risk of poor mental wellbeing due to the persistent and cumulative effects of colonisation of their culture. The students suggested that schools implement a holistic approach to tamariki wellbeing, including whānau involvement, which would help both tamariki and their teachers to better identify, understand and regulate emotions, build children's resilience and support their mana. The Nursing students recommend that Whanganui schools provide a culturally appropriate wellbeing tool, such as a poster, that encourages tamariki to identify and express their emotions in te reo Māori or English, at home and at school.
Māori and Pasifika tamariki and children living in lower socio-economic and non-fluoridated drinking water areas have increased risk of dental caries. The Whanganui water supply is not fluoridated. Poor oral health also has a detrimental effect on overall health and wellbeing. The Nursing students wrote a submission to the Minister for Health with the following recommendations which they substantiated with evidence:
- Introduce a sugar tax on sugary beverages to discourage and reduce their consumption.
- Extend the Ministry of Education’s proposed healthy drinks only policy in primary schools to include pre-schools and secondary schools.
- Fluoridation of all drinking water supplies across Aotearoa New Zealand.
- Increased investment in preventative and curative oral health care for pre-school and primary school-aged tamariki.
They also designed stickers with the bilingual message “Kia rua ngā wā, ia rā – Twice a day, every day”, to remind tamariki and their whānau to care for their teeth.