Maori public health perspective


Tangata whenua have a long history of maintaining the Maori health through concepts and practices such as tapu, noa, and rāhui that protected water supplies, food sources and safety of whānau.


For Maori, the concepts of community health and wellbeing go beyond physical wellbeing. Good health is recognised as being dependent on a balance of factors that affect wellbeing:


Te Taha Wairua

Spiritual health, including the practice of tikanga Maori in general.


Te Taha Hinengaro

The emotional and psychological wellbeing of the whānau and of each individual within it.


Te Taha Tinana

The physical aspects of health.


Te Taha Whānau

The social environment in which individuals live – the whānau of family, the communities in which whānau live and act.

A Maori perspective of health. Durie, M. H., Social Science and Medicine 20(5): 483-6. 1985.

In the whare tapa whā model of health described above, the four components represent four walls of a house. If one of those walls fails, the house will fall. In public health, there are two other perspectives which are seen as particularly important:


Te Ao Turoa

The environment: the relationship between Maori and te auo turoa is one of tiakitanga (stewardship). It is the continuous flow of life source. Without the natural environment, the people cease to exist as Maori.


Te Reo Rangatira

Expresses the values and beliefs of people and is a focus of identity. The root of all cultures is the language, and te reo is a vital expression of rangatiratanga.

Te Tātai I te Ara: Guidelines for Developing Maori Health Education Resources. Ministry of Health,1996.

Maori health must be understood in the context of the social, economic and cultural position of Maori in the present day, as well as the effects of the past on Maori today.

Public health practice in New Zealand recognises the interconnectedness of public health and development of whānau, hapu and iwi.

Through the Maori development initiatives across health, education, employment, housing, and justice, there is potential to improve the health of the Maori population.


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