Fitness Trainer/Coach, Les Mills
Education / Health & Human Development Physical Activity Promotion, 2015
Improving Pasifika Health.
Suli Tuitaupe – Master’s student, educator, registered nurse and fitness trainer – is hard at work in the Pasifika community, running workshops to help people and families make better decisions around their health. While gaining his Masters in Health Science at UC, Suli gained in depth knowledge around the health disparities faced by Pasifika people. It sparked a desire to use his learning to empower others. “I believe that health is a taonga, a treasure. If you don't have health, you don't have life.”
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re up to.
I’ve come from a background working in the airlines and fitness industries. Before I started my degree at UC I was working at a gym in Kuwait. I’m in my hometown, finishing off my Masters of Health Sciences, articulated with a Bachelor of Nursing. In the last six months I’ve had a lot of clinical hours, which has been pretty full on!
Where has your passion for health come from?
I believe that health is a taonga, a treasure. If you don't have health, you don't have life. Before I got into the fitness industry I used to be quite big. Before working for a gym, I lost a lot of weight. That experience gave me the insight that if I can do it, anyone can. Being able to share my own story in the workshops I give makes a big difference to the people I’m trying to help. Everybody loves personal stories.
What do you want to do with your degree?
I want to help improve the health equity of Pasifika people. At UC I learned a lot about health equity – where the disparities are and the reasons behind them. That learning really got me thinking and wanting to engage with people who are less fortunate. I'm really looking forward to working as a nurse and health promoter in the community.
What community involvement have you had so far?
I’ve immersed myself in a range of projects, particularly within the Pasifika community. I got involved in an initiative called “Power Up” which is a Ministry of Education initiative. With that, I mentor mainly Pasifika children in health and physical education at Linwood College. I’m also involved in the Tutupu Project, a CDHB and Pegasus Health initiative. I run workshops around nutrition, physical activity and wellness at a Pasifika Church. It's been really successful.
What kind of change would you like to see within the Pasifika community?
I'd like to see people becoming more engaged with health issues and tackling them from a community and family/aiga perspective. Individual health, family health and spiritual health are all interconnected so it's really important to look at things holistically.
What are some of the dimensions of health you’d like to see addressed?
There’s nutritional health and physical health, but there’s also the importance of being healthy from within. Pasifika people are quite giving as a community but tend to forget about their own needs. There's also a cultural aspect of being quite proud, so issues around mental health tend not to be shared that much. By having the right supports in place those things can be dealt with better within the aiga realm.
So it’s the whole picture of health that you’re thinking about?
Sometimes health feels fragmented, like a jigsaw, but it's the interconnectedness that really matters. In the workshops, I talk about how nutrition and physical activity interconnect. You eat, that's energy in, so then you have to exercise, that's energy out! It's about breaking information down to a level that's relevant to the community, and putting it together in a way that makes sense and has real-life applications.
What else keeps you busy these days?
I still work as a fitness instructor. I currently teach about 10 classes a week at Les Mills. My favourite aspect is connecting with the members. Exercise is hard, and I appreciate the effort they make to come. The most satisfying part for me is when I see people leave my classes feeling uplifted for the day, like they've achieved something good. I am also working as a Pacific researcher at Pegasus Health Charitable Trust. I look forward to working as a Registered Nurse once I have completed my thesis.
Speaking of achievements, you’ve won quite a few awards at UC. What impact has that had on you?
I’ve always been motivated in my studies and the recognition I earned at UC made me even more determined to do well. I think education is crucial, and I really enjoy sharing what I’ve learned. I love being able to empower people with knowledge, especially about health, so they can make good decisions for themselves. Learning is power!
What words of wisdom would you pass on?
It's never too late to dream big. I love seeing people go back into studying. Never say you can't, because you can. There are so many supports in place.