Maria Lafaele is currently a Project Manager with Funding and Planning, Auckland and Waitemate DHBs. She has been in her role for almost four years. Previously Maria was a Smokefree Practitioner, Pacific Stop Smoking Services, Auckland Regional Public Health, Auckland DHB.

We caught up with Maria Lafaele and asked her a few questions about life and work. Here's what she had to say ....

Where was your last holiday?

Samoa at last Christmas with my family to attend our Family Reunion in Safotu ,Savaii. We stayed at Manase and Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge. The best places in the big Island of Savaii to stay if visiting Samoa. The beaches have beautiful white sand and wild blue lagoons.

Outside of work, what excites you most about getting out of bed each morning?

It is a great privilege for me to sit on different boards in health, social services, women centre and community forums to represent Pacific peoples on the North Shore. I utilise these roles to advocate on behalf of Pacific peoples on local, social and national issues impacting on their access to quality housing, increase employment for the youth, accessing best health care and overall achieving our own aspirations. I was quite honoured to be the first Pacific person to chair the Birkdale and Beachaven Community Project which lead to the first Pacific Arts and Crafts Fusion on the North Shore, which showcased our Pacific food, arts, culture, dance and languages. I am quite proud of this. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to have a voice and be visible for our Pacific people on the North Shore.

I am a busy mother of three beautiful children and have schooled them to be civic minded and step up for community. We keep busy with family, sport, studies and church. I like to keep active and try to walk the talk in terms of my health and leading by example.

In your opinion what needs to happen to support Pacific people to get closer to Aotearoa Smokefree 2025?

To reach the Smokefree 2025 goal for our Pacific peoples, Tobacco Control sector (including, Ministry, DHBs, Primary care, Secondary care, Mental health, Maternity health and social services) need to utilise their spheres of influence to promote stopping smoking and reducing initiation for Pacific populations. The priority population of Pacific clients apply across all spheres to ensure equity access and outcomes for our Pacific people. With a primary focus on some key activities which could include …

  • Work a lot more with natural communities settings, Pacific churches, families, kava groups, sports clubs, workplaces that enable the collective approach of working together as a group to support each other to quit together
  • Tax increase – this appears to have a high impact for Pacific people accessing tobacco
  • Have a better understanding of what’s happening with our Pacific neighbours, and how we can support them with their Tobacco Control plans, Aotearoa has strong connections with our Pacific neighbours and our people are crossing boarders constantly.
  • DHB required implementing activities that will improve numbers of people accessing Stop Smoking support to quit with a focus on priority groups, Maori and Pacific.
  • Pacific services accessing funding to deliver Pacific smoking cessation models that will deliver

Finally, tell us something that you’ve been proud of working on this year?

I’m proud to have been working Waitemata DHB and Auckland DHB training initiative which aims to give health professionals the skills and confidence to have challenging stop smoking conversations with pregnant women. It also aims to connect them with local stop smoking services to support them to quit.

The Effective Stop Smoking Conversations with Pregnant Women Online Programme was launched on 31st May to celebrate World Smokefree Day.

The programme is designed for all health professionals who work with women during pregnancy and through the immediate post-natal period. It has been specifically designed to encourage conversations with Maori and Pacific communities where smoking rates are disproportionately higher than the rest of the population.

The idea is to give health professionals some extra help to identify any barriers pregnant women have when quitting smoking. It also helps them turn various conversational cues into opportunities to discuss stopping smoking.

Ultimately it should give them some additional tools to assist referring more women to local stop smoking services – empowering them to make a potentially life-saving decision for themselves and their babies.

The comprehensive and interactive training package is available to a diverse range of health sector workers, including GPs, Midwives, Leading Maternity Carers, Obstetricians, Plunket and family planning workers and anyone else who work with pregnant women.

Ministry of Health figures collated between 2011 and 2015 show around 1000 pregnant smokers register with maternity providers across Waitemata and Auckland DHBs every year, 75% of whom are of Maori or Pacific ethnicity.

Waitemata DHB recognises smoking as a leading factor in SUDI rates which are still disproportionately higher nationwide among Māori. Smoking reduction is therefore a major part of its SUDI prevention strategy – along with education about the dangers of bed sharing with babies. Waitemata’s proactive work in this area is part of the reason why there has been a 63% drop in Māori infant mortality across its catchment since 2001 – well ahead of the national 30% decline.”

The training addresses the kinds of issues which present while working with pregnant women and mums in our community. This will contribute further to better health outcomes for our population – safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our mothers and giving their babies the best possible start to life.

The training meets the National Training Service (NTS) standards for Core Competencies for providing advance brief interventions to pregnant and postpartum women.

You can access a 3 minute promotional video of the training by clicking here.

If you are a DHB staff member or you are already signed up to Ko Awatea LEARN you can access this training by clicking here.

If you don't have access to Ko Awatea you can access the training by clicking here. Anyone can register to use this site.

The “Effective Stop Smoking Conversations with Pregnant Women” online course will take you through a series of scenarios to practice effective conversations with women who smoke in pregnancy and post-partum.

In this course, you will learn to:

  • discuss stopping smoking with the women you work with
  • identify barriers to stopping smoking
  • pick up conversational cues and turn them into opportunities to discuss stopping smoking
  • provide information to increase the use of Stop Smoking Services
  • practice conversations in complex situations and get some instant pointers on conversation skills, messages and how to handle myths and facts about smoking during pregnancy and post-partum

Modules will take 35 – 45 minutes to complete and you will receive your certificate when you have successfully completed the all three modules.

For any additional information regarding the online training tool, email