24 Apr 2020

Pasifika health official stresses importance of medical appointments

6:05 am on 24 April 2020

A Pasifika health boss in New Zealand is warning of the importance of keeping on top of the medical requirements of older family members.

The chief executive of the Pasifika Medical Association and Pasifika Futures, Debbie Sorensen, said despite the Covid-19 lockdown, health professionals were easily accessible.

Debbie Sorensen.

Debbie Sorensen. Photo: Alex Perrottet / RNZ

She said GPs were just a telephone or Zoom call away and, in many cases, older family members would not have to leave the bubble.

"You can use all sorts of different apps to actually see your health professional - your doctor or your nurse," she added.

"They'll provide you with good advice about whether you need to bring in the parents, or aunties or uncles, or whether in fact it's a conversation over the phone."

However, Mrs Sorensen said it's very important to ensure they continued to get to necessary physical appointments.

"I know that people are very frightened, I think, and anxious about taking their parents or their aunties and uncles out of the bubble but it's really important that those ordinary health check-ups still are attended because people's health issues carry on, regardless of being in the bubble."

Debbie Sorensen said it's important that older people's health doesn't deteriorate because they're fearful of leaving home.

Mrs Sorensen also stressed the importance of physical exercise.

While families want to protect older and vulnerable members, she said, it's important to understand the environment and safely take a walk without coming into contact with others outside the bubble.

"Is it okay for you to walk down the road or walk across the road to the park? And yes, it is, it is okay and it's good for people to get out."

Forming new healthy exercise habits are very important as staying "locked up in a house is not very healthy," she said.

"We understand that these restrictions are probably going to last for some time, particularly for our older community."

Another aspect of maintaining the health of older family members, Mrs Sorensen said, was helping them embrace new technology which could bring together family and community members from outside the bubble.

"There are new opportunities to connect that we haven't had before because often now people are at home more and not actually in a work environment."

Apps like Zoom, FaceTime and other online video feeds are defying the tyranny of distance.

Good health was a combination of factors and the new technology was aiding in the physical, mental and spiritual, she said.

"All of our churches have now gone online so we can still connect. As we know, God is everywhere."