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Heart Foundation’s nutrition course ‘changed my life’

Anna-Marie Fabricius graduated from the Heart Foundation’s course in Pacific nutrition this month and the Aucklander says the course has changed her life.

Anna-Marie Fabricius, daughter Francesca Fabricius-Masoe, and father Bernhard Fabricius

Anna-Marie Fabricius, daughter Francesca Fabricius-Masoe, and father Bernhard Fabricius

The AUT Certificate of Proficiency in Pacific Nutrition has been running for 17 years and teaches people about the relationship between the types of food we eat, the effect they can have on our health, and how to make every day traditional foods healthier.

Anna-Marie was one of 37 graduands to celebrate achieving the Certificate in Auckland on Friday 6 December. Graduands came from all different backgrounds from Auckland through to the Waikato regions.

Anna-Marie didn’t realise she’d be so excited about learning about Pacific nutrition, but after attending the first class, she was filled with excitement and inspired her to share her knowledge with her family, church and community.

“On the night Tuesday 20 August… I walked out of class that night feeling so inspired and excited to share. At about 9.30 at night I got home, everyone was in bed and here I am waking them up, saying ‘I want to share what I’ve learned’. So every Tuesday after that we’d talk about what I had learnt in class that day,” says Anna-Marie.

The Heart Foundation Pacific Heartbeat course is funded by the Ministry of Health and teaches people how to help families and communities eat better and live well. The course is delivered in three parts, both online and through six evening classes, once a week over eight weeks.

Anna-Marie has experienced the benefits of learning heart-healthy habits with her family.

“Little did I know how life-changing the next eight weeks would be for me, and then my family and my community.”

Since she started the course her daughter, 10-year-old Francesca, has also learned about the value of healthy eating.

“I didn’t realise but she was listening to everything I’d been saying. When I saw the draft of her school speech, I was so surprised it was on healthy eating. “I sat there reading it, oh my goodness she’s understanding everything I’m talking about. She’s talking about fat blocking the arteries. And then taking this back to tell all of her friends.”

“It’s never too late to educate our children on the best lifestyle and how to make healthy choices.”

More than 7000 Pacific people live with heart disease and two in five Pacific deaths from heart disease occur between ages 35-65. Compared to one in ten deaths for non-Pacific, non-Maori New Zealanders.

That’s why it is so important for people like Anna-Marie to share and encourage people in the Pasifika community to look after their heart-health, eat healthy food and exercise.

Anna-Marie’s father, Bernhard Fabricius, recently had a lot of health problems, including having his gallbladder removed. She says her family’s health problems helped motivate her to learn, not only about healthy eating, but about the importance of exercise.

“Since taking this course we have our Fitbits and we’re trying to reach 10,000 steps a day. My Dad, who’s in his 70s, is just overtaking me each day and he’s hitting his 10,000 easily. As well as that I have family all over the Pacific Islands. And the family in Samoa, even though they’re not with me, we’re all connected with our Fitbits, we’re all competing to see who can get the most steps, and I must say they’re winning!”

Anna-Marie says it’s simple to make changes that can have a big impact.

“Little things like changing the milk in our household from blue top to yellow top. Funnily enough no-one in our family even noticed.

The other thing we’ve been doing as a family is food labelling, now I’m reading the back of the can.

Yes, I’ll be that person blocking up the aisle reading the back of the can with my daughter. And as I say it’s never to late to educate them and sit down with them and say this product is more beneficial,” she says.

And the benefits haven’t stopped there, with her community now on board.

“When I look at my community, when I look at preparing meals, especially with our elderly people I can say ‘we don’t need to fill up their plates that much’, so educating them on the four food groups and also portion size is important.”

“So all-in-all I can definitely say this course has been life-changing for me, my family and my community.”

Anna-Marie’s advice for others wanting to make a healthy change is, “Go for a walk, eat well and look after yourself.”

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