HPF ED first indigenous person to be elected to global health role

Health Promotion Forum of NZ (HPF) Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi has been elected as the new President of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE).

The first Indigenous person to hold the position, Mr Tu’itahi was named during the 24th IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion held in Montreal and online from May 15-19.

Mr Tu’itahi is also the first Pasifika and first Tongan and New Zealander to take the role.

“IUHPE is always strategic and responsive to the needs of our world community. Our planet is broken, and the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) are calling us to heed the knowledge and leadership of Indigenous Peoples as part of the solutions. This call is reflected in the Geneva Charter for Well-being that WHO released after its 10th World Congress on Health Promotion last December,” said Sione.

A new Global Executive Board,  elected by members world-wide, named Sione as their leader for 2022-2025. He took over from Immediate Past President Professor Margaret Barry, who was elected in 2019 during the 23rd IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion that HPF co-hosted with IUHPE here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Two Legacy Statements, the Rotorua, and the Waiora Legacy Statements, were released by IUHPE and HPF following the 2019 Rotorua conference. Both statements call for the privileging of Indigenous knowledge as part of the solutions to addressing the wellbeing of the planet and humanity.

An IUHPE Global Working Group on Waiora Planetary Health and Human Well-being was established in 2020, co-chaired by Mr Tu’itahi, to lead the implementation of the two legacy statements.

“With these statements, we helped to shape the strategy of IUHPE for the next five years. They also informed our contribution to the Geneva Charter for Well-being and other international policy instruments, Mr Tu’itahi added.

“It is an honour to serve our world health promotion community, including Aotearoa, in this capacity. But I am part of an equally committed team and our IUHPE family is world-wide. We also have collaborative partners such as the WHO.

“Together, we will work to counter the convergence of global challenges such as the pandemic, geo-political conflicts, economic crisis, and the environmental catastrophe, he pointed out.

“Back home, we are not alone. We are following the footsteps of former HPF leaders such as Dr Alison Blaiklock and guided by our eminent elders, Sir Mason Durie, Adjunct Professor John Raeburn, Dame Tariana Turia, Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, Professor Dr Colin Tukuitonga and HPF Kaum`atua Bishop Richard Wallace. We have come this far because we walk in unity together.

Sione and his wife Pou at the 23rd IUHPE World Health Promotion Conference in Rotorua, 2019

“We now have an opportunity to contribute more to our human family and the well-being of our common home, Mother Nature, the Whenua, our Fonua. The benefits will also cover Aotearoa. When we focus overall, the parts do benefit,” he said. ” This role provides HPF extra insights that can be useful in supporting our current health reform, especially the role of public health and health promotion in our new structure, and how to engage with our communities.

“And it’s heartening to see the positive response and commitment from our local partners such as the School of Public Health of Otago in Wellington, AUT School of Public Health, Manukau Institute of Technology, other universities and polytechnics, our public health counterparts such as the Public Health Association of New Zealand (PHANZ), and other NGOs such as the Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA).”

Celebrating its 70th anniversary, IUHPE is the largest international organisation and network that leads the on-going advancement of health promotion. Its headquarter is in Paris, its Secretariat in Montreal.

“No, I am not moving to Paris. I love Aotearoa, my second home, since I moved from Tonga, my first home, 28 years ago. But I am a global citizen. Nowadays I ‘travel’ online more. That helps the planet and our economy. Also, I need more time with my four mokopuna, my inspiration,” he concluded.