Supporting quality holistic care: Te Kahu Whītiki Kura at Lytton High School

Quality holistic care develops a whole young person by addressing physical, mental/emotional, family and spiritual elements of their wellbeing. The holistic view of health is particularly important in Māori culture.

Lytton High School in Gisborne is a Decile 2 school with a 70 percent Māori roll. The school has traditionally taken a broad view of student wellbeing, and welcomed a range of health and social care agencies. However, historically, it lacked a model by which these agencies could work together.

A few years ago, the school began researching models for bringing health and social services for its students together into one facility. They drew ideas from the Full Service Schooling model in the United States, and Youth One Stop Shops in New Zealand.

In 2011, the school opened its new holistic care facility, Te Kahu Whītiki Kura. It provides a physical space in which to bring together health care services offered by the school and external agencies. It also enables a more holistic way of working, based on the principles of Te Whare Tapa Whā, which considers the physical, mental, family and spiritual elements of health.[1]

Te Kahu Whītiki Kura combines seven services:

first aid/receptionist
guidance counselling (full-time)
physiotherapy (two days per week)
a public health nurse (three days per week)
a doctor (three days per week)
child and adolescent mental health services (as required on a referral basis)
Child, Youth and Family services (as required on a referral basis)

The school promotes the facility’s services to Year 9 students during their orientation at the beginning of the year, and during Year 9 Home, Education/Employment, Eating, Activities, Drugs and Alcohol, Sexuality, Suicide and Depression, Safety (HEEADSSS) assessments. In addition, services occasionally make presentations at school assemblies.

The school’s sick bay is now housed in Te Kahu Whītiki Kura, thereby raising student awareness of other services offered at the facility, and allowing staff to identify students who may need holistic support. Inside, students and staff share food, drink and music. These features allow staff to build rapport with students, and reduce the potential stigma associated with visiting the facility.

Staff of Te Kahu Whītiki Kura track attendance statistics and gather evaluation forms, to ensure the facility continues to meet the needs of students. About 70 percent of the student population access the centre at least once each year. Feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive.

The key to making Te Kahu Whītiki Kura work is the commitment of the staff to work collaboratively with health care providers. This collaboration involves relationship-building, strong leadership and a willingness to share the physical space.

The facility has faced challenges. Despite widespread enthusiasm for the collaborative approach among health care professionals, the school has struggled to secure financial support to run and expand services. It funds most of the facility’s costs out of its basic education grant.

Nonetheless, staff of Te Kahu Whītiki Kura are keen for the facility to develop further. They would like to include more practitioners and services, and to spread the message about what can be achieved by working together.

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