The Tongan Health Society, led by CEO and Medical Director Dr Glenn Doherty, is demonstrating remarkable success in vaccinating people of Tongan descent in Tāmaki Makaurau.
Established 26 years ago to provide holistic healthcare services to the Tongan community, the Tongan Health Society provides integrated health, education and social services to some of the most vulnerable Pacific clients in the Auckland region through its three practices in Onehunga, Panmure and Kelston.
Their services range from medical care, a community centre and gardens, and a bi-lingual ECE pre-school through to programmes on family violence, work readiness, Well Child services, mental health, youth navigation, Whānau Ora, Elderly Day programmes and an extensive COVID-19 work programme.
It is, says Dr Doherty, a practice based on Tongan values and centred on family and community.
“We mirror the way we work in Aotearoa from the village model in Tonga. This means partnering with church and community leaders to get the word out there about the programmes and services we offer—it is all about our people.
“We recognise the diverse realities that Tongan people live in and the socio-economic determinants of health and well being, and provide integrated packages of care and support that underpin the primary care model.”
This model is also the key to their success with vaccinations. “We offer a drive-through service where all the staff are Tongan, from the people managing traffic and security through to the clinicians,” says Dr Doherty. “We also have a dedicated vaccination centre as well as offering vaccinations in-home and in Tongan venues.”
New centres opening in July 2023
In addition to its three existing centres, next month the Tongan Health Society will open a new primary-care health practice in Otahuhu, and a new research centre in Wiri.
“We’re really proud to partner with Variant Bio, an American based genetic and research centre based in Seattle, in our new research centre,” says Dr Doherty. “We’ll be working with them on genetic research specific to the Tongan community, particularly related to diabetes, gout and chronic kidney disease.”
Delivering excellence to Tongan communities
Everything they offer, says Dr Doherty, is underpinned wherever possible by delivering excellence to the community.
“We won the top medical centre award in 2020 for innovation and excellence in general practice services, we’ve been recognised for our work in rheumatic fever prevention, whānau ora services and particularly diabetes management consistently over many years, and have Royal New Zealand College of General Practice Cornerstone/Foundation standards and accreditation as well as Ministry of Social Development and ERO accreditations and awards for social enterprise initiatives.”
The Tongan Health Society also carries out charity work in Tonga, including cyclone, flood and tsunami relief, along with village outreach and public health programmes and medical support to hospitals in Tongatapu and the outer islands over the years.“Everything we do is for our people and communities, both here in Tāmaki Makarau and back in Tonga. Embracing the total view of our patients’ lives, their families and extended families makes such a difference to the people we serve, and allows our organisation to grow through intergenerational relationships.”