One woman's journey from smoker to smoke-free champion

Counties Manukau is home to the number one quit-smoking team in the country. 

The Counties Manukau Health Living Smoke Free Team are not only passionate about their jobs, they are exceptionally good at them, with a four-week quit rate of 79 percent.

The 19-strong team have a base at Middlemore Hospital but deliver their service community-wide at marae, churches, workplaces, homes as well as community events. 

Counties Manukau population health manager Summer Hawke says the secret to the team's success is they don't just focus on tobacco use.

"One of the best approaches that I see that really work with whanau is letting them lead their own care plan. And sometimes it isn't limited to a smoke-free conversation, this team go in and directly support and link into other services to address the stresses and the issues whanau are facing for that day."

Mum-of-five Samantha Ripia is one of their successful clients who transformed her life after getting support from the team. She's now one of their community smoke free-champions. 

With the help of her own smoke-free practitioner, Samantha organised a group of Māori mums to start their own smoke-free journey together. 

Smoking rates in Aotearoa have decreased to 12.5 percent, but with less than five years to go to reach the smoke-free 2025 target of fewer than 5 percent of the country smoking, there's a long road ahead. Hawke is concerned the Government has gone quiet in the smoke free space.

"We need to encourage people who don't smoke never to start, especially our tamariki and our rangatahi. And we need reinvigorated leadership, especially from Government."

Whether the Government hears this call or not, the team at Counties Manukau DHB will continue to transform lives and make a huge impact in their communities.

The Hui