Creekfest 2018: Taking services to the People

If whānau, fun, food and music sound like you then Creekfest should be on your calendar.

Stan Walker, Three Houses Down and Ria lead the entertainment line-up in February 2018 in Cannons Creek, Porirua City. Free stage entertainment includes local and national artists and is the draw card making this a day on the calendar not to be missed. Music features heavily in this community which is rich in its population makeup with the majority being of Pacific Island descent.

Creekfest started in 2004 in the local car park, as the result of a group of motivated locals who saw a need to raise the awareness of programmes and services available in the region to achieve better health and wellbeing outcomes.  Taking the services to the people was the idea rather than waiting for locals in this high need area to access services they didn’t necessarily know existed.

Creekfest is an annual one-day event, a one stop shop where most services available to the community congregate in one place and promote their key messages to the community. After 14 years Creekfest attracts up to 40,000 locals and visitors and is now held at the local park which is a much bigger location.  For 14 years Creekfest has offered a platform to health, education and social service providers to showcase their programmes and services.

This community driven festive occasion has been successful due to its bottom up approach. Over the years there has been innovative methods to attract attendees into service provider tents which sets the scene to deliver serious key messages to a target audience in a fun environment.

There are always a range of sporting events planned on the day which include rugby league games, volleyball and more.

Community food stalls are draw cards to attract attendees. “Where there is food, there will be people” according to one of the locals who didn’t want to be named. But it doesn’t stop there, with free fun rides for the children all day. A dedicated team of community volunteers ensure logistics including, car parking, rubbish collection and toilets to name only a few of the many tasks, are maintained during the day.

Of course, this all comes at a cost which is a challenge in today’s environment. Thinking beyond traditional funding sources, Statistics NZ was a key sponsor in 2018, being census year  this was a great opportunity for the locals to become familiar with filling out the census documents.

Cassius Kuresa is a local who has been involved with Creekfest for many years. He always looks forward to this community event and says “Creekfest is a community event where a lot of organisations and services from all sectors come together to promote their programmes.  Health is one of the main sectors that has been with Creekfest since its inception. This annual occasion provides opportunities for those working in health to promote holistic health and wellbeing through a wide range of health education, clinical and promotion activities to the communities that attend.  It’s a great way to show the local communities how health organisations can work together to support the whole whānau”

One of the goals of health providers has been to provide consistent health messages and this first started by promoting smoke free environments and the past three years have been focused on messages aimed at reducing the consumption of sugary drinks.

Each year around 150 stall holders line up to promote their services and interact with the community. Pharmac and the Heart Foundation sponsored heart health checks for a few years and at this point deep fried foods weren’t sold reinforcing the messages provided. Those working in diabetes prevention celebrated when the environment started to become more supportive reinforcing healthy eating messages and gone are the days of organisations fundraising with toffee apples or giving away lollies as prizes.

Building on messages that can be collectively agreed upon has been a workable starting point to ensure consistent messages are given to whānau. Tooth decay is a concern in Porirua with a report in 2017 highlighting the amount of local Pasifika five-year-olds with decay in their baby teeth at a shocking 61%; for Māori children it is 51%, while other ethnicities are at 25%. Between 2015 and 2016, 103 Porirua children under five were admitted to Wellington Hospital for dental treatment. Therefore, it’s a simple solution for all stakeholders to agree to one consistent message. Promoting something that is free doesn’t costs participants so making tap water the drink of choice is a very realistic goal.

 The local dental service gives away toothbrushes and other stall holders have been encouraged to give away reusable water containers which can be filled at the onsite water tanker provided. Stallholders decided collectively to replace lollies with fruit as giveaways. Most stallholders have free raffles and lucky draws in return for people stepping inside to express an interest in the item on offer. Giant games of Jenga, indoors bowls and other activities provide incentive for individuals to participate in stall holders’ activities.

Three years ago, the event became fizz free which was a step in the right direction but this still enabled numerous sweet drinks to be sold and two years ago great progress was made that no sugary drinks would be sold at all with diet and zero drinks a compromise. This change has been slow and steady in gaining community approval. There are stall holders that still try to get away with selling sugary drinks on the day but a team has been trained to tactfully ask stall holders to remove these items. It is only a short walk to the local shops to buy a fizzy should they wish, so the organising team must be realistic as they want stall holders to make a profit on the day and continue to support future events.

Taking a softer approach rather than a wholesale ban has been a winning formula which could be resisted had this been a top down rule enforced by health professionals. A carrot rather than a stick approach has been successful with Regional Public Health sponsoring a “healthy kai award”. This award worth $500 is awarded to the stall or stalls which offer delicious healthy food choices and follow the guidelines provided. A team including the city council, public health advocates and local community dietitian service created a guideline for food stall holders. The wording has been carefully crafted and pre-tested with the target groups to get buy in. The words ‘foods encouraged’ and ‘foods discouraged’ proved to be the most acceptable.

To ensure all stall holders are on a level playing field and understand the guidelines a compulsory education session is part of the registration process. This 2-hour session is offered at different times of the day and evening to ensure attendance. Presentations include fire safety, food hygiene, set up and pack up, health and safety, logistic details as well as tips and tricks from the community dietitian on making healthy food and ensuring a profit on the day. Previous years have seen coleslaw added to sausage sizzles, smaller portion sizes and multiple examples of vegetables added to traditional dishes such as chop suey. Juliet Wiseman, a community dietitian working in Porirua has been involved in the workshops for food stall holders, encouraging the provision of healthier food options and she is looking forward to seeing many traditional foods from a variety of cultures available on the day.

Anita Taggart, a community liaison at Regional Public Health explains how ‘the festival allows health organisations to communicate face to face with families and often generates open conversations around health queries or concerns.’

This is a community event where all services are together.  Creekfest is an opportunity to see education alongside health and social services where they are one and not segregated.

Creekfest 2018

Article written by Alison Pask, Health Promotion Manager, ANA

February 2018