20 Aug 2020

Call for Pacific community connection amid Covid data divide

8:34 pm on 20 August 2020
Dr Teuila Percival.

Dr Teuila Percival. Photo: Supplied/Pasifika Medical Association

A senior Pacific health official in New Zealand says not everyone has access to the technology required to receive important information about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Samoan doctor Teuila Percival QSO, FRACP, welcomed the efforts of community and church leaders in Auckland amid the recent resurgence of cases.

Dr Percival said Auckland's Pasifika leadership had ensured people were getting tested and were following correct medical advice.

But she said while the messaging from church and community leaders was vital, connectivity within communities was just as important.

"We have to mindful that there is a data divide. You may have a households that only one smartphone between the whole household and limited data or limited internet access.

"We just have to be mindful that not everybody's got computer's and ease of access to social media," Dr Percival said

The Vice President of the Pasifika Medical Association said because many Pacific families didn't have access to digital information support from church and community leaders was important.

"Access to information is important because it tells us what to do, what to look out for and where to get tested," she said.

That's why our connectivity and networking within Pasifika communities was really important, she said.

"That's how we connect to each other and pass on information."

Dr Percival hoped the same community connection would help inform families where to go if they needed practical assistance during the crisis.

"There's help out there and we need to make sure that it's getting to our people especially to those who have difficulty putting food on their table or paying their rent," she said.

"There's support by organisations like Whānau Ora and the Pasifika Medical Association through Pasifika Futures, who provide various services like the distribution of care packages to families."

Dr Percival said the support from church leaders showed how the Pacific community could be part of the solution during the pandemic.

"We've been involved in the planning and have come up with the services and support that our people need," she said.

"We haven't been passive, instead, we've come up with our own solutions."

The doctor said places of worship, like the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in Auckland's Māngere East, had organised pop-up testing stations for its members.

"We've seen great leadership from our leaders who are supporting and relaying advice to their congregations and encouraging them to get tested," she said.

However Dr Percival, a paediatric consultant at Middlemore Hospital, admitted there was a lot of anxiety concerning the Pacific community.

"Despite the worry, our people have been responding very appropriately by staying home, social distancing and getting tested if they have any symptoms," she said.