Samoan church ministers take lead in bridging faith and public health in South Auckland

Samoan Church Ministers from the EFKS denominations are stepping up as key players in public health.

Reverend figures like Rev Elder Victor Pouesi from Ekalesia Faapotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa (EFKS) Magele I Sasa’e I Puaseisei, have long been vocal advocates for their communities, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rev Pouesi said Faifeaus (church ministers) are essential agents of public health.

“The church serves as a vital information hub, and the Faifeus are highly effective agents.

“They are not just spiritual leaders, they are dedicated public servants who diligently care for their people.”

More than 40 EFKS Faifeau (church ministers) collaborate with Pacific Public Health (PPH) to tackle critical healthcare challenges within South Auckland’s Pacific community.

This collaboration, under the banner of ‘Project Faith (EFKS PUASEISEI)’ aims to leverage the trusted positions of church ministers to ensure communities receive timely and well-informed healthcare information.

They focused on areas such as protection, prevention, promotion, and the introduction of the new Pacific Emergency Response Plan.

One of the primary goals of this initiative is to address barriers to healthcare that many in the community face.

Language barriers, social isolation, and financial constraints often hinder access to necessary health services.

Reverend Elder Victor Pouesi

National Pacific senior advisor for protection, Priscilla Toitua, emphasised the importance of this collaboration.

“It’s crucial to clarify the difference between public health, Pacific health, and Pacific public health.

“By working closely with church leaders, we can ensure that these distinctions are understood and that our communities receive the care they need.”

Aotearoa has more than 40 Pacific ethnic grops each with its own culture, language and history.

Some common health issues include high rates of diabetes, gout, heart disease, youth, mental health issues, skin infections and obesity.

Pacific Public Health director Api Poutasi said during Covid, Pacific churches became the central hub for our Pacific communities.

“Working with our church is essential to our culture and our lives, and it has had some positive impact in the past. It’s a good information-sharing space where we can talk about all aspects of health,” Poutasi said.

Present on hand was former Principal of Malua Theological College Ma’afala Limā, who is now a church minister for Otara EFKS.

RNZ Pacific asked him if, reflecting at his time in Samoa and being in New Zealand now, whether these initiatives would be suitable for Samoa to pilot, especially with previous outbreaks such as measles and COVID-19.

“I believe this is the way to be because,” he said adding “in Samoa, there are hardly any programs like this close to the church.”

“It basically goes to the village community and the women’s community on public health, on issues of immunisation, and advocates advocacy for other kinds of diseases that come into the country.

“But hardly any involvement of local congregation except for the whole.”

Rev Limā said at the annual Malua Conference in Samoa such issues are discussed.

Plans are already underway by the Pacific Public Health sector for similar collaborations in other regions and within the arts and sporting communities.

Pacific Public Health (PPH) team.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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