Heart Foundation’s Life-Saving gift for Maketu

Heart disease is the single biggest cause of death of New Zealanders. In a focus on Māori heart health this month, the Heart Foundation is calling for more resources to tackle heart disease in the Māori community.

People standing with Maketu defibrillator

Heart health in the rural township of Maketu will get a huge boost with the installation and blessing by the kaumatua’s of the community’s first publicly accessible defibrillator.

The life-saving defibrillator will be mounted on the wall outside the building of local Māori health provider Maketu Health and Social Services. Any member of the public, including children, will be able to use it in an emergency by calling 111, getting a code and following simple instructions.

A defibrillator can literally save lives when people suffer a sudden cardiac arrest. It uses an electric shock through the chest wall to correct ventricular fibrillation, the most common cause of cardiac arrest. 

The small beachside community of Maketu, north-east of Te Puke, is a predominantly Māori community and home to around 2,000 residents, with a high proportion of elders. Until now, people who experienced a cardiac arrest had to hope the local volunteer fire brigade, which carries a defibrillator in their vehicle, weren’t out on a call in a remote rural area. Otherwise, in an emergency it takes more than half an hour for an ambulance to arrive from Tauranga.

"It's an amazing gift and could be life-saving," says Shontell Peawini, Tumuaki and Chief Executive of Maketu Health and Social Services. 

"We're really fortunate to be the recipients. We hope we don’t have to use it, but should the need arise, the community will now have easy access to it," says Shontell. 

The defibrillator has been funded by the Acorn Foundation which has teamed up with the Heart Foundation in Tauranga to address the need for better heart health in Western Bay of Plenty communities. 

Once the defibrillator is officially handed over, Maketu Health and Social Services will become the sponsor, supporting its maintenance, providing batteries and replacing the pads when they expire. 

Heart Foundation Heart Health Advocate, Angela Alexander, is happy to have connected the Maketu community with the Acorn Foundation funding opportunity. After the defibrillator unveiling, she hopes to partner with Maketu Health and Social Services to offer talks about heart health and heart disease prevention. 

Heart disease is the single biggest cause of death of New Zealanders. In a focus on Māori heart health this month, the Heart Foundation is calling for more resources to tackle heart disease in the Māori community. 

"The death rate for Māori from heart disease is more than two times that of non-Māori," says Heart Foundation Medical Director, Dr Gerry Devlin. 

"Heart disease is the single biggest cause of death for Māori and kills two Māori people every day," says Gerry.

The Heart Foundation is grateful for the more than $13,000 in funding from the Acorn Foundation which, as well as the Maketu defibrillator, will allow it to install another defibrillator outside a popular Mount Maunganui café and meeting spot. 

The trust's grant has also enabled the Heart Foundation to invite two high-risk cardiac patients and their families to join a Flourishing Whānau Wellness programme run by the Centre for Health in Tauranga. The programme focuses on exercise, nutrition and stress management.