Mens health Week 2021
I have a Rockstar pāpā (dad) who is the kaumātua of the shearing sheds, who cuts up mutton faster than he can smoke a cigarette – I know cause he does it at the same time! He’s hearty, oldskool, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it kinda fulla and can usually fix things, including himself. Side story once he cut the palm of his hand open when he was shearing and used some string and a needle and sewed it up himself, put on a cloth bandage and finished his run (shearing the sheep in the pen).
I have two awesome younger brothers, one a shearer and one an engineer. Different generation again, brought up on the x-box, urban/rural mix, surrounded by drugs, alcohol and hoha antics. I feel like they are still finding out their place in the world and what to make of it all.
And my great partner who was brought up by his strong, hardworking, crack up māmā in Tāmaki – same generation as my dad. My partner is sensitive, kind, and loves rugby and league -he’s like a giant teddy bear that will smash the wind outta you on the field.
Then my handsome three boys, crazy wee characters, the eldest loves old soul music, gaming, painting and movies, middle boy enjoys drawing, gaming, Ju jitsu and maths and the youngest a very opinionated lil fulla, who likes to think, challenge and debate as well as play sports.
I tell you all of this because they are all different and engage with hauora (health and wellbeing) in their own ways. Some of its character, generational, urban/rural, upbringing and some of its their place in the whānau. But what remains at the centre is the ‘social conditioning’ around them – their relationships: partners, mates, role models, community and systems.
Regarding hauora what I have noticed with dad is that he’s being asked (by whānau & health professionals) to become more aware of this health. He’s had a few health… or should I say death scares lately which have given him a fright. And I’ve been harping on to him for years about giving up smoking and drinking but nothing worked, threats, hiding smokes, refusing to let him into spaces, growing, supporting, accompanying to health appointments. But what actually worked was nearly dying! After he was realised from hospital, he hasn’t picked up a smoke since.
My brothers are also not receptive to my rants… funny that. But they do want me to come with them to appointments (and are capable of making them) and share a lot more personal details than my dad does. My brother’s are single so that has a role to play and one lives with me so I like to support him where I can, as he was diagnosed with narcotic epilepsy two years ago.
Over the past year my partner has had to become real savvy with PPE gear as he works in the area of hauora. So he’s got to role model good practise. He’s generally fit and healthy but when I meet him was a smoker too. I also tried tactics on him, but always feel short. But what got him was it started effecting his breathing, and that effected his performance on the field! So then he quit too!
My tamariki have learnt a whole lot about germs and hand washing thanks to their kura and COVID has become a frequent discussion point in our home. For them hauora is a bit more straight forward they are cared for and nurtured in so many ways that their dad or grandfather never had the privilege of. They get supported at kura, home and in the community. But they still face disparities being Māori but have fierce parents to advocate for them.
In sum, it sounds like death and fear play a part in changing health behaviours but that’s just what’s seen at the surface. The reality is, is that they get by in spite of the health system not because of it! What is at play is the dominant western clinical health approach hasn’t done much good for dad, my brothers or my partner because if we take a deep dive into their health encounters. Their health experiences include treating them like siloed individuals in 15min time slots, where you pay, have to take time off work and really have to make a fuss to be heard.
What works for the tāne in my life is relationships, coming to them, offering options, laughs, sports analogies, treats, time within an Indigenous health approach. Hauora that is grounded in holistic, preventative approaches that offer multiple modalities from all corners of the earth east, north, south not just west (clinical). Where we never give up on each other, where the door is always open, the invitation is always there, and spending time to be seen and heard – not told off.