Levi and Dana Armstrong have a strong desire to improve the mental, social and physical wellbeing of communities.
For over five years, the Armstrongs have worked with a team of researchers at EIT to develop the Meke Meter, www.mekemeter.org.
The Meke Meter is an indigenous quality of life self-assessment tool.
By asking people to think about their current physical, mental and social well- being, Levi and Dana are hoping to gain good insight into the country’s well- being.
Through completing the Meke Meter regularly, people can track any changes to their wellbeing. This empowers individuals to set goals and make positive changes to improve their quality of life.
“I come from a fitness background where it’s all about physical appearance but actually it’s a lot bigger than that – it’s also about mental and social well-being, which is crucial when taking a holistic approach to health.”
Levi, with the support of technology company Haunui, has been able to turn the Meke Meter into an online platform that enables people to rate out of 10 how they are feeling physically, mentally and socially in regards to 15 specific key indicators.
During COVID-19, more than 1,000 people regularly submitted their measurements with Levi and Dana validating the quality of the information as part of a study for Masters of Health Science.
Levi has already completed a Bachelor of Recreation and Sport at EIT while Dana gained a Bachelor in Education, majoring in Physical Education and Health, and a Diploma in Teaching (Conjoint) from Massey University.
“While COVID-19 has made its presence felt in Aotearoa, we thought it would be a great opportunity to understand the impact that COVID-19 is having on the health and wellness of New Zealanders.
“We have looked at other studies including the Christchurch Earthquakes and the Global Financial Crisis and how wellness was measured,” says Levi.
Levi said it helped not having a regular 8 am–5 pm job during lockdown, but instead spending time with his whanau, studying, keeping fit but without going to the gym, and achieving a personal challenge of not drinking alcohol for 100 days. All of which was measured via the Meke Meter.
“We’re all quite busy in life and didn’t have much time for many things but COVID-19 gave me the opportunity to take a step back, reflect and set some goals, and the Meke Meter has helped me immensely.
“We’ve also had our children using the Meke Meter, as well as many others, and the research has highlighted some of the key areas that we can focus on and hopefully we can share and disseminate some of this information back to some key stakeholders in the health and well- being space.”
Levi says the aim is to now commercialise the Meke Meter to organisations involved in health, social well-being and education.
It will also complement another lockdown project – a fitness centre pod called Dominys – which is being piloted with Wellington high school Taita College. The project has received funding support from Wellington-based youth development organisation Boys and Girls Institute (BGI).
Levi had been toying with the idea of a fitness centre in a shipping container for some time. It had come about when his first whanau fitness project Patu was struggling to pay rent for the gym.
“My cousin is an architect and at Christmas I told him about my idea to create a fitness centre within a shipping container.”
“My cousin is an architect and at Christmas I told him about my idea to create a fitness centre within a shipping container.
“The next thing, he sent me some drawings and we’ve now got a prototype and a project with Taita College.
“The aim is to provide it as a shared space, so anyone in the community can use it.
“For the college they will use the pod as part of their curriculum and the Meke Meter will measure how much of a difference the gym is making in the school and the community.”
Levi says Sport New Zealand research shows that there is a significant drop-off of high school students participating in active recreation and it’s something he wants to turn around.
“We are trying to get the Meke Meter and Dominys to work hand in hand.
“There is a big drop-off in participation between the ages of 12 and 14 years of age, so we want to flatten that so that we can be the ambulance at the top of the hill rather than at the bottom.”
The container is equipped with weight rack systems, Olympic bars and weights, skipping ropes and boxing bags. It has a sound system, lighting and uses an hydraulic system to open up the sides.
Levi knows the positive impact of physical fitness on mental and social wellbeing and says that with the pandemic crisis and thousands of people losing their jobs and businesses closing, it will be more important than ever to better understand how people are feeling.
“Post-COVID-19, mental health is going to be a really important factor to consider in the nation’s recovery. We know from the research following the Christchurch earthquakes and the GFC that there was more mental support services set up and there’s going to need to be similar action taken after this pandemic.”