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Public Health Nursing

Public health nurses don’t wait for people to come and see them at the clinic with an illness, rather they go out into the communities, schools and homes to promote good health and prevent disease.

Child Health

Public health nursing goals for children include:

  • Promoting exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months
  • Strengthening child health clinics for follow up and care
  • Strengthen school health programmes and services
  • Supporting screening programmes for rheumatic heart disease (RHD) including referral, follow up and treatment
Health services are free for most children below the age of 16 years| To see if your child is eligible see the National Health Fees Schedule >>>

Overweight and obesity

Obesity is a medical term used to describe excess body weight that can affect your health. Children with obesity are at greater risk of health problems now and in the future, and more likely to have obesity as adults. A 2019 survey of our school-aged children in the Cook Islands was alarming with overweight and obesity rates having increased from 31% in 2017 to 46% in 2019.

This statistic is higher in The State of the World’s Children 2019 report published by international children’s charity, UNICEF with 63% of children in the Cook Islands classifying as overweight and obese.

In 2017, the Pacific Health Ministers’ endorsed the establishment of the Pacific Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) network to address child obesity in the region.

Oral Health

  • Ensure your children have a good diet to prevent cavities and decay
  • It is important to brush your teeth and gums in the morning and before going to bed. Use a fluoride toothpaste to help build strong teeth and floss regularly (daily is best)
  • Visit a dentist – children under 18 years are able to receive free basic oral health services
Immunisation is a way of preventing against infectious diseases. Vaccinations are offered to babies, children and adults to protect against serious and preventable disease. Read more.

The first year

Information for mothers

  • Eat well and try not to miss meals especially when breastfeeding
  • Drink water whenever possible and keep hydrated
  • Avoid overworking, and try to sleep or rest when the baby does
  • Check with a nurse when it is time to return to exercising or doing some light work

Information for fathers

  • Spending time with your baby is crucial for their growth
  • Support your partner and keep an eye on them especially if they are not coping well
  • Surround yourself with support and advice from friends and families who share your experience


Breast milk is the perfect food for babies especially during the first 6 months. Breast milk helps protect babies against colds, infections and allergies. After 6 months, exclusive breastfeeding is not enough on its own for your baby to grow and develop. This is the time to start your baby on solid food, though wherever possible you should continue breastfeeding until the baby is at least 1 years old.

Breastfeeding is perfect for mothers too because it helps you feel close to your baby, gives you a change to rest, saves time, is free and may reduce your risk of some cancers.

Smokefree homes

Cigarette smoke is very harmful for your baby, both during pregnancy and after birth. Babies who live with smokers get sick more often than those who don’t. Breathing in second-hand smoke can make your baby sick. It can chest infections, asthma, and increase risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SIDS).

Baby Show

The Cook Islands Baby Show is a time-honoured event that draws attention to the health and welfare of our children and communities. Beginning in the late 1930’s, the Cook Islands Baby Show has evolved into an eagerly anticipated biennial event for parents and caregivers, the community, as well as the main coordinating non-government organisation, the Cook Islands Child Welfare Association, in collaboration with Te Marae Ora. The baby show was held on Rarotonga and Aitutaki in September and October 2019.

Under five

Information for parents and families
  • Children learn by copying those closest to them. If you want them to behave in a kind and calm way, you need to role model that behaviour so they can learn from you.
  • It is important to listen to your child when they talk to you and spend time with them – this includes setting clear rules what you do or don’t want your child to do
  • Children feel safer when they know what the limits are, even though they will test them sometimes. Being fair and consistent makes things easier for them and for you.
  • It can be hard to stop a tantrum but it is important not to lose your temper or shout. Ignore the people around you and concentrate on staying calm.
  • Give your child a range of healthy foods and let them choose what they want to eat. Eat together as a family, and eat the foods that you want your child to eat.

Maternal and reproductive health

Postnatal checks for mothers and babies continue to be provided through public health nursing.

Our objectives are to:

  • Strengthen home visits for mothers and children discharged from hospital
  • Support and strengthen cancer screening and prevention programmes such as pap smear and breast cancer screening
Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression can occur in both parents, and occurs when you feel down after having a baby, but those feelings don’t go away. Some of the signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Always feel tired or feel you are a bad parent
  • Cry a lot
  • Have aches and pains
  • Think bad thoughts
  • Do not sleep well, even when your baby is asleep
  • Feel you can’t cope with anything, such as housework
  • Feel anxious or uncertain all of the time
  • Don’t care about how you or things around you look
  • Get angry with people around you, such as your partner, other children or family

Aged care support services

Our support services for older people include:

  • Personal care such as medication management, dressings and wound management
  • Carer support (help for caregivers)
  • Health education
  • Palliative care and pain management

Health care services are free for those over the age of 60 years.

Disability support services

Te Marae Ora has a long history of caring for people with disability at the hospital, when there is an absence of a caregiver or family member to do so. We support the Creative Centre and Ministry of Internal Affairs to provide social welfare services for those with a disability, while our teams provide clinical oversight and personal care such as medication management, dressings and wound management.