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Personal touch adds value to Pacific heart rehabilitation

Lani Ioelu is a Samoan-born, New Zealand-trained, Pacific Cardiac Rehab Nurse working in the Counties Manukau area. Lani has a strong passion for working with Pacific people who have suffered a heart event. She shares with us the successes and challenges of working in the area of Pacific secondary prevention.

Find out about the Pacific Healthy Heart Programme

Meet Lani, Pacific Cardiac Secondary Prevention Nurse

As far as Lani knows she is the only Pacific nurse working in the area of cardiac secondary prevention in Auckland. Secondary prevention aims to stop people who have had a heart event (or attack) from having another one.

The Pacific secondary prevention programme was initiated after Counties Manukau District Health Board audited their Cardiac Rehabilitation programme and found Pacific people were the least to attend mainstream secondary prevention programmes in the community

They quickly discovered common themes such as transport difficulties, cultural support and language barriers.

Lani also learnt that, “one really big issue is patients think that once they have had by-pass surgery or a stent, they are fixed. They stop their medication because they are feeling well and then they get sick again. But we have Pacific people being readmitted because they do not take their medications or have run out of medication supplies.”

The Pacific ‘Healthy Heart’ Programme is a three day FREE programme for those that have had a heart event and their families.

Attending this programme can help Pacific people to understand why they are taking their medication and the importance of eating healthy and exercising.

“It’s so important that they understand they are feeling well because they are taking their medication and that it’s really important they continue to manage their health & wellness effectively,” says Lani.

“We also look at emotional and mental-health, as stress is a big problem after a heart event. We often break into smaller ethnic groups to discuss this and allow people the opportunity to open up. We do relaxation and low-impact exercises as well,” says Lani.

Having fanau members attend the programme helps them understand they don’t need to cook separately for the sick person. They can all eat a healthy meal together. That way they help the family member on their road to recovery as well as become healthier themselves. 

Before the Pacific ‘Healthy Heart’ Programme started four years ago only 40% of Pacific people that came through Middlemore hospital after having a heart event, accessed the secondary prevention programme. After the introduction of the Healthy Heart programme, this went up to 48%.

Lani pushed for the introduction of home visits as part of the ‘Healthy Hearts’ programme and attendance increased to a further 54%.

Lani tells us that in the home she is able to share her learnings from doing the Certificate of Proficiency in Pacific Nutrition (CPPN) course in 2014.

“Understanding how much salt is in processed food is really important for heart health, so I show them how to read food labels.

“It brings a light to my face when people share that they have made healthy changes to their diet such as cutting back on fizzies or eating healthier,” says Lani.

Heart Foundation’s Pacific Heartbeat Team encourage our Pacific people to join in the fight to Stop New Zealander’s dying prematurely of heart disease by attending the FREE Heart Health Programmes offered by the hospitals.

Contact Lani Ioelu if you’d like to learn more about the Healthy Heart Programme in the Counties Manukau area.

Learn more about Pacific heart health by clicking on the button below

Pacific heart health