Heather Came is this year’s Kāhui Hauora Tūmatanui Public Health Champion.
“It feels like a victory for every person who has stood beside me,” says Dr Came, associate professor and head of the Public Health Department at the AUT School of Public Health and Interdisciplinary Studies.
The award is made by the Public Health Association of New Zealand.
One of New Zealand’s first AIDS workers, Dr Came worked with the then Taranaki Area Health Board in the 1990s, saying it took her 10 years to establish herself, as she had been “living in a bubble”. “[My] life as a bisexual feminist was on the margins. I just thought it was ordinary,” Dr Came says in a media release.
Moving into health promotion and then Māori health, she says she witnessed institutional racism. She obtained a master’s in political science, and then, in her PhD, introduced a new way of mapping racism and enabled targeted anti-racism interventions.
Founder of STIR: Stop Institutional Racism, she is also a co-principal investigator on Marsden Fund research about reimagining anti-racism for the health sector.
Dr Came has contributed to the recognition of institutional racism as a modifiable determinant of health and her advocacy efforts have contributed to the development of a forthcoming national action plan on racism, says AUT in the release.
She is a former Public Health Association executive member and founder of the AUT branch of the PHA.
The association’s chief executive, Grant Berghan, himself a previous recipient, presented Dr Came with the award. Mr Berghan says: “Heather is an exceptional human being, and she works tirelessly to make this world a better place for us all. He Rangatira ia.”