Pacific health worker on a nutrition mission

When Koratika Tiban finished a short nutrition course run by the Heart Foundation last year, the first thing she did was go home and overhaul her fridge and pantry.

First to be given the ‘boot’ were white bread, fizzy drinks and sugary foods.

“Everything’s changed at home – we’ve introduced lots of fibre and it’s amazing to see water on the table now instead of fizzy drinks,” says the Hamilton nurse.

Having successfully convinced her husband and two teenagers to enjoy a healthy new diet, Koratika’s now on a mission to share her passion with the community.

“The course has helped me personally, but I’m also passing on that new knowledge to my workmates and the community. I’m so glad I did it.”

Koratika, aged 48, was one of fourteen students that took part in the Heart Foundation’s Certificate in Pacific Nutrition (CPN) last August. The CPN is designed to help people working in Pacific communities to train, advise and support others in making healthy food choices.

“The stats show that obesity, hypertension and diabetes rates are so high among Pasifika and Maori, and one of the main factors is bad nutrition,” says Koratika, who works for Waikato health organisation K’aute Pasifika.

She says one of her biggest challenges before doing the CPN was knowing how to help people change their lifestyle.

“Even though I’ve been in nursing for quite a few years, I still needed this new information about nutrition. This course has given me different ways to deliver the message at a level our people can understand.”

During the CPN, Koratika learnt about shopping on a budget, meal planning, reading food labels, controlling portion sizes and making healthy food choices.

She’s been sharing that knowledge by holding healthy lifestyle sessions for small groups in Hamilton, particularly among her own Kiribati community.

“The comments and feedback from each group have been positive and they’ve been really receptive to it.”

Koratika is encouraging her workmates to do the next CPN, which is being run in Hamilton during April and May.

“All my colleagues come from different backgrounds and if they have this knowledge they can deliver it in their own language to different churches and communities.”

Two of her colleagues have already registered for the course.  

The Heart Foundation’s CPN is run in partnership with Auckland University of Technology. It is a Level 4 course delivered over nine days, and graduates are awarded the AUT University Short Course Certificate in Pacific Nutrition.

It is subsidised by the Ministry of Health, meaning students pay only a nominal fee, which is currently $100.