An Aotearoa first for Pasifika leadership

Oka Sanerivi

As the first Pasifika Clinical Leader of a Physiotherapy Department at a New Zealand DHB, its a passion for helping others and growing cultural understanding that guides Oka Sanerivi’s work.

“This will be an adventure in many ways. I’ve been a physiotherapist for 10 years, but with my new role I want to look further into health equity. There is alot of shared genealogy between Māori and Pasifika”, says Oka. “I want to grow cultural understanding to inform the way we provide healthcare to the Tairāwhiti community”

Addressing health equity, particularly for Pasifika communities is a special interest area for Oka, which branches further than his day-to-day role as Clinical Leader for Physiotherapy.

Oka is currently completing a Masters Degree in Physiotherapy investigating cultural approaches to treating Pasifika families. He is hoping that his research will be able to benefit Pasifika whānau at a local level.

“Acknowledging the different values, beliefs and customs that whānau have is a really important part of providing high-quality care."

After moving from Hamilton to Tairāwhiti three years ago to be closer to family, Oka’s first role at Hauora Tairāwhiti was as a Visiting Neurodevelopmental Therapist (VNT), assisting children with developmental delays. Now Clinical Leader for the Physiotherapy team, paediatric health is still something Oka is passionate about and is a focus in his research.

"I'm a believer in the importance of the early years and how critical it is for whānau to have timely and responsive healthcare. For children requiring care during the early stages of their life, positive interactions with clinicians can leave lasting impressions on families and on the development of their tamariki." says Oka

"This is one of the reasons I started my research looking at how Physiotherapists could and should be providing culturally responsive services to Pasifika children in Aotearoa. It's exciting to be in a position where I can create positive change".

"Having a greater depth of cultural understanding of the people we are working with enables us to make more informed decisions about the health and wellbeing of our whānau. I'm looking forward to leading the Physio team here towards exploring Te Ao Māori and our role in advancing health equity".

While his new role and current research keeps Oka busy, he also keeps his life full raising three children with his wife Deborah, playing music and enjoying recent success with two self-published pictures books designed to teach children Pacific languages.



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