Health 'road test' helps offenders to better life

Last updated 06:40 20/06/2014

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Health checks for people on probation have been introduced in Marlborough for the first time to encourage them to connect with the health service.

About 20 people doing probation or community work under the Corrections Department in Blenheim have been given a health "road test".

Maori health provider Te Hauora O Ngati Rarua, in conjunction with Mana Tane Ora O Aotearoa, offered the free health checks as part of Men's Health Week.

Community nurses monitored each person's blood pressure, blood glucose, weight and general health. Anyone who did not have a GP was linked up with a surgery.

Blenheim probation officer Karyn Farrow said the people who had health checks ranged in age from 17 to 50. One man who had previously refused a health check was one of the first in the door.

Many people Corrections dealt with had high health needs, Farrow said.

"Many do not access health services in the community and don't believe in health screening. Offenders that are well both physically and mentally are more likely to engage in rehabilitation, re-integrate into the community and support a better lifestyle. For some to get a health check is a major step forward."

Ngati Rarua Maori men's health co-ordinator Te Ra Morris said Corrections clients included a high concentration of young Maori men. Introducing health checks was the latest programme to link more men to health services.

"We are winning all the health statistics for all the wrong reasons," Morris said. "Maori men have the top rates of diabetes, cancer, lung disease and self-harm."

Failing to go to a GP contributed to the poor health outlook, he said. Many had bad lifestyle habits at a young age that put them at risk of cardiac problems and diabetes as they got older.

"They are often told by their peers to harden up. In general a health problem has to be really serious before they will engage in the health system."

The cost of GP access, peer influences and cultural aspects contributed to poor contact with GPs.

"For many it would be the first time they have had a health check, which is pretty alarming. Men are well-known for staying hushed on issues around their health.

"The statistics regarding the health of men are getting worse, in particular Maori men who are not good at getting regular health checks or visiting a GP. Many males do not present at any health service until, in many cases, it's too late."

Men who don't have a GP are asked to contact Tane Ora co-ordinator Te Ra Morris on 0274 408 949 or 03 570 5712.

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- The Marlborough Express

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