The recent approval of the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand (HPF) as a National Accreditation Organisation for Aotearoa New Zealand is a significant development for health promotion in this country.

A special feature of the approval from the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) is that we are the first country to have our Indigenous knowledge acknowledged and included under the IUHPE accreditation system.

Hauora asked HPF’s Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi about the process involved in applying for approval, the significance of having our Indigenous knowledge included under the system and why the accreditation process is so important for health promoters in NZ.

Mr Tu’itahi also discusses how long it will take to put the proper structures and processes in place before a starting date can be confirmed for the assessment and registration of health promoters.

HAUORA: What does this mean for Aotearoa New Zealand?

SIONE: This approval is based on the 2012 New Zealand Health Promotion Competencies and Standards that includes Te Tiriti O Waitangi and the socio-economic and political context of New Zealand as integral components.

This is a world-first, and IUHPE is keen to learn from it for the sake of other Indigenous peoples. IUHPE is a global professional non-governmental organisation dedicated to health promotion around the world for 70 years. HPF has been a member for almost 20 years.

In 2016 IUHPE elevated its accreditation framework to be a one global system for all health promoters and educational providers across the world.

While effective in addressing the determinants of health, and while present in most cultures, health promotion is a relatively recent development as an academic field and professional practice. 

Therefore, it is not regulated nor formally recognised. The IUHPE accreditation framework gives formal recognition to health promoters through an assessment process to ensure their competencies are current and of consistent, quality standard.  It also gives formal recognition to health promotion qualifications. 

The system is voluntary at this stage, but it is a great step in the right direction. In future, it is envisaged that health promoters can travel and work in countries where the system is established.

HAUORA: Can you please explain how the NAOs operate?

SIONE: National accreditation organisations (NAOs) administer the accreditation process in countries where they are established.

With IUHPE’s approval, HPF as an NAO will do this for New Zealand health promoters. In a globalised society with a very mobile health promotion workforce, it is very timely for NZ health promoters to be part of a global framework that is the only system for the whole world.

Under the same system, and as mentioned earlier, tertiary educational providers that teach health promotion can also have their qualifications formally recognised through a process managed by the IUHPE Global Accreditation Organisation (GAO).

GAO is the international body established by IUHPE to administer the whole accreditation framework, including approving, and guiding the establishment and operation of NAOs.

HAUORA: Why is this accreditation important for New Zealand health promoters?

SIONE: Currently in New Zealand, anyone can enter and practise health promotion. While this practice enhances the wide range of expertise required in health promotion – from policy and leadership to programme planning and community development, we need to ensure that health promoters are properly equipped with the right competencies – their knowledge, skills, and attributes, hence a formal system like the accreditation framework.

Also, we need to ensure that health promoters are systematically supported in their continuing professional development. This is not only for their ongoing advancement, but more importantly, for the wellbeing and safety of the people and communities they work with.

Of greater significance for New Zealand, IUHPE has accepted that components that are unique to our context and needs, such as Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our socio-political and cultural context, are a part of our accreditation framework.

We are the first country to have our Indigenous knowledge acknowledged and included under the IUHPE accreditation system. This reflects not only the hard work that HPF and its partners have been doing over the years, but it also affirms the effective contribution of Indigenous knowledge towards health promotion, planetary health, and human wellbeing.

IUHPE is very interested in our work on the accreditation because it can offer lessons on how to incorporate other knowledge systems into the framework, which is based on the Ottawa Charter and the European perspectives of wellbeing and health promotion.

HAUORA: So, when and how can health promoters be assessed and become part of the framework?

SIONE: In the next 12 months, HPF will develop an implementation plan with the proper structures and processes in place for the assessment and registration of health promoters. During the same time, we will promote greater awareness of the accreditation framework before we decide on the starting date of accrediting health promoters. The aim is to prepare health promoters and the health sector for this significant development.

Becoming an NAO is the latest milestone in our systematic and collaborative effort to broaden the dimensions of health promotion and advance its ongoing development for our country and the world.

(Banner picture, from left, Sione Tu’itahi with fellow newly elected members of IUHPE’s Executive Board at the global world health promotion conference in Rotorua, 2019) 


News, Uncategorized

Jenn Lawless brings a wealth of experience, including a strong background in Parliament, union advocacy, communications and campaigns, and public health to her new role as the first Chief Executive of the Health Coalition of Aotearoa.


Hauora recently caught up with Jenn, who joined the Coalition in May 2021, to see how she is settling into the role and about some of the main activities that the Coalition is currently involved in.


We also gained an insight into Jenn’s earlier years – what life was like growing up in a rural setting at Te Uku on Raglan Harbour and how this instilled in her a healthy respect for the environment.


Jenn also shares about how she ‘fell’ into politics and what she learned from her time in parliament, as well as how her ‘passion for public health’ developed.

HAUORA: We’d love to know a bit more about you. You live in Wellington but you’re originally from the Waikato Region where you grew up in a rural setting at Te Uku on Raglan Harbour. Can you tell us a bit about what life was like growing up in rural Aotearoa and what values were instilled in you as a result of your upbringing?


JENN: The natural environment I grew up in was very idyllic, and I had no idea at the time how lucky we were – there was a beautiful tidal estuary, and I learnt to ride, kayak, fish, care for animals and helped my father restore a small patch of native bush. We saw the changes in the biodiversity of that awa as local dairy conversions happened, with the river silting up and whitebait stocks and other fish declining. It was much later I realised this was an ongoing process of colonisation which disrespected the environment and original kaitiaki of that land. At an early age I had a sense that increasingly intensive extractive agriculture was putting profit over the health and sustainable systems of the natural world.



HAUORA: You’ve had a fair bit of involvement in politics, including working in parliament. What drove your interest in politics? what did you take away from that?


JENN: At the time, I felt like I fell into politics. My friend enrolled me in a political science course, and one of the assignments was to sit in the gallery. I was appalled at the quality of most of the behaviour and debate! And it made me angry that the people making the decisions didn’t seem to be the people affected by those decisions, or to understand the implications of them. Or even worse, perhaps not to care.


I ended up working in four parliamentary roles, including the Select Committee Office, an internship in the Government Whip’s office, and Parliamentary Service for the MPs Martin Gallagher, Labour MP for Hamilton West and then Kevin Hague, Health Spokesperson for the Greens. The latter was for nearly seven years.

On reflection, everyone’s view of society is driven by their lived experience. I was at the pointy end of the State as a young person with few resources. I saw the gap between my experiences and those of my peers, and a lack of understanding of different lives. My time in parliament showed me the many invisible, deliberate filters which reinforce existing privileges – those that get to make the decisions versus those that decisions are ‘done’ to. The lesson I learned is that community organising, empowerment and collective action are the only real ways to make lasting structural change.


HAUORA:: You also have a background in communications and campaigns. Can you please tell us a bit more about this, and how and when you became so passionate about health equity, health policy, and public health in particular?  


JENN: At university I did media studies, which I saw as an essential adjunct to political science in a mediated democracy. Most people don’t directly know those making decisions on their behalf, so rely on the media to decide whether leadership is ‘good’, and which issues are important. My most recent work was as a campaign adviser in the union movement – focusing on empowering working people to speak up and tell their own stories.

As a health consumer, in particular a young woman, I saw there was a power imbalance between my health literacy and decisions made on my behalf by clinicians. I was being put through processes and systems I didn’t understand how to navigate. My boss at the time encouraged me to study public health to better understand the policy work we were undertaking. This is when I realised health inequities are systemic and preventable – not just about individual knowledge or behaviour.


My passion for public health is that it fundamentally measures whether society fairly values all people. Does everyone have equal access to a long and healthy life? And if not, why, and how can we fix that?


HAUORA: It just seems like yesterday that we were congratulating you on your appointment to the Coalition, but you’ve now been there for more than three months. How have you settled in, and what were some of your main responsibilities/tasks as the ‘first’ Executive Director of the Coalition?


JENN: There’s a lot of work to be done! In the first few months I’ve spent time meeting some of our organisational members, expert panels, and Board members of course, and focusing on the internal policies and systems of the Coalition. We are quite a large organisation for our relatively small resources, so there are still many organisational and individual members I’m looking forward to meeting. I’m having many discussions with subject-matter experts around our core policy work and priority objectives for tackling preventable health loss.

HAUORA: Can you give us an update on the progress being made on of some of the activities the Coalition has recently been involved in, including the development of positive coordinated responses to the proposed new tobacco control measures and health sector reform, as well as coordinating efforts to respond to the new revamp of food regulations.


JENN: The Coalition’s Smokefree  Expert Panel put in a consensus submission fully endorsing the Government’s recent Smokefree 2025 proposals, which you can read more about here. We are looking forward to these proposals being enacted in the near future, and to provide expert input into the health evidence. We stand ready to support the proposals with domestic and international expertise throughout the policy development and implementation process.


Our Food Policy Expert Panel undertook a lot of work recently to put in a response to the update of the food regulations which are jointly held between Australia and New Zealand. This is quite a complicated process and system, which has big implications for public health. That’s why we issued a joint statement of health promoting organisations here and across the ditch, outlining concerns.


For those interested in the Food Policy Expert Panel’s full (42 page!) response from a New Zealand perspective, you can read more here.


HAUORA: What are some other main activities the Coalition will be focusing on in the near future and can we expect any new developments?


JENN: The Coalition has a formal working relationship with the Helen Clark Foundation and the MAS Foundation, funding Helen Clark Foundation Health Equity Fellow Matt Shand. Matt has been investigating the cost of alcohol harm in the community, using novel data from ACC. We are supportive of the Minister of Justice’s recent comments that the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act will be up for review, and our Roopuu Waipiro (Alcohol Expert Panel) looks forward to contributing their expertise to that process.


On Friday the 1st of October, the Coalition is holding its AGM from 10.30am – 12pm online. It’s open to all HCA members and is free.


You may also choose to donate after joining – as an independent voice on the commercial determinants of health, we are able to undertake our work through private donations.


HAUORA: Would you like to add anything?


JENN: The global Covid-19 pandemic has been a terrible experience for the mental and physical health of populations globally. But our government’s evidence-based response has given us great hope that this approach can be equally applied to other deadly risks to public health. New Zealand has shown it can lead the world in stamping out infectious disease. Now, let’s do the same to preventable harm from alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy food, and inequities in health outcomes. There’s never been a better time to join us.




The re-emergence of Covid-19 in the community and the subsequent lockdowns have again put Kiwis under immense pressure!

Job and financial uncertainties, worries about you or your loved ones catching the virus, children unable to go to school and concerns about the future can lead to overwhelming stress and anxiety.

So, taking extra care of your health and mental wellbeing is crucial and HPF, as does many of our members, provides tools, resources, and information to help you cope and get through these uncertain times.

HPF has developed a handy resource to help build your whanau and family capacity, and maintain your wellbeing. ‘A Health Promotion tool for empowering whanau and families against Covid-19’ is available on our website.


We also have some informative webinars, such as ‘Health promoting ways of building family and whanau capacity against Covid-19, and beyond’, ‘Te Whare Tapa Wha, Covid19 and Māori Health Promotion’ (and many more) which can be viewed on our YouTube channel.


“Families are a powerful front in defending health challenges and promoting wellbeing,” says HPF Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi. “By staying home and saving lives, families are the first line of defence at the community level.


“Our tools focus on building family skills to not only fight against Covid-19, but also to maintain family competence to be in charge of the holistic wellbeing, post-Covid 19,” he added.


Many of our members have a website page dedicated to ‘Covid-19. Hapai Te Hauora has a ‘Covid-19 Information Hub’ on its website which includes Covid-19 daily updates, links to booking vaccinations and colourful and descriptive Covid-19 resources.


The Mental Health Foundation also has some great wellbeing tips, based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing and Te Whare Tapa Wha.


Accessing the correct information about Covid and vaccinations, what you can and can’t do under the alert levels and so on is also vital, especially as a lot of misinformation can be spread on social media.


The Asian Network Incorporated provides relevant information, including links to detailed information about living at Alert Level 4 in a number of languages.


Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki has a dedicated Covid-19 page with all the latest updates and information.

The Fono has a slideshow running across its home page with Covid info such as where to get your vaccinations, a phone number to call for support and much more.

(Banner photo by Jacek Pobłocki on Unsplash)