Health programme to be accessible for all NZ secondary schools

Thousands of New Zealand secondary school students have participated in the me™ programme (Menstrual Health and Endometriosis) over the past 21 years and thanks to funding from the Riccarton Rotary Youth Trust in Christchurch, thousands more will have access.  

Endometriosis can be a debilitating disease affecting 1 in 10 or well over 130,000 New Zealanders. It’s a major public health issue affecting schooling, work, relationships, normal everyday function, mental well-being and fertility and has a serious societal impact.

Endometriosis New Zealand (ENZ) has made it possible for many students to learn the importance between normal and distressing symptoms, what to do about it and where to seek help.

Deborah Bush, MNZM. QSM.

Co-founder and CEO of Endometriosis New Zealand, Deborah Bush, saw the need in the 1990s and her background in education led her to designing then trialing the me™ programme in 1998. “It was clear from patient feedback that the symptoms of endometriosis, started young, often from a girl’s first menstrual period.  There was no other educational model nationally or internationally. The world was still reporting inaccurate information such as endometriosis was a ‘white woman’s career disease’. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Ms Bush.

Over the past 21 years the in-schools me™ programme has been presented to those schools where philanthropic or sponsorship funding has been available.  This has meant that only certain students across New Zealand have had access.

The recent publication of the me™ programme in ANZJOG (Australia New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology) shows that 27% of our female secondary school students are off school every or most months with debilitating symptoms.  This statistic would be unacceptable with any other health issue and should not be allowed, particularly when we have a proven solution.

the me™ programme in school

Currently, trained programme educators organise in-school sessions which can be time consuming and have natural limitations in reaching a wider audience.  

“Developing the me™ programme into eLearning is an exciting time for the future of Menstrual Health and Endometriosis education in our society. The statistics associated with this disease including the 8+ years to get a diagnosis, is scandalous,” says Bush. “How can young people learn when they are missing school regularly with a disease causing chronic pain, anxiety and who commonly face being disbelieved by health professionals?”

Murray Compton, Chairman of the Riccarton Rotary Youth Trust (RRYT) said, “The purpose of the RRYT is for the betterment of the education, training, advancement and benefit in life of young persons within New Zealand. Endometriosis New Zealand was seen as a particularly worthy cause for support.  We also wished to honour a past member of the Rotary Club of Riccarton, the late Dr John Doig, gynaecologist, who was committed to early intervention for endometriosis and played an important role in Endometriosis New Zealand.”

Heather Pearson

Heather Pearson, a teacher now working as the Project Coordinator for ENZ said, “An online platform will allow for better equity and accessibility across communities. The plan is to initially make the online me™ programme available through all schools across New Zealand, for use on any smartphone or computer. Students will have the option to work together or independently, allowing for a more agile and personalised eLearning experience. The eLearning, synonymous with the ‘just-in-time learning’ approach in our schools, will be engaging, allow students to revisit content, and provide a supportive place for discussions around menstrual health and endometriosis.

Deborah Bush added that in 2017, the me™ programme was trialled in South Australia and following its success, was embedded in the Australian Government Action Plan for Endometriosis in 2018.

We are delighted for the youth of New Zealand that the Riccarton Rotary Youth Trust has recognised the me™ programme to make online learning a reality.

Strength through support - mā te tautoko, ka whai kaha, ka ora

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