National | Māori Health

Māori lives depend on Māori Health Authority, wider ‘whole environment’ reforms - Māori health groups

File / Whakaata Māori

Rather than discussing whether to scrap the Māori Health Authority, Te Aka Whai Ora, kōrero should be focused on why reform to address Māori inequities is not being rolled out across all major sectors that impact Māori health, says Māori public health body, Hāpai te Hauora, and Auckland-based teen parent service, E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services.

The two organisations say they want to ‘pre-empt’ questions directed at Māori health experts about the validity of Te Aka Whai Ora.

“So this month, as the health of our whānau is kicked around like a political football, Māori health practitioners will be asked by the media on the validity of the Māori health authority,” they said in a joint release Wednesday.

“To pre-empt this, we need to be clear that re-dredging the prior system that was well documented for its racism and systemic breaches of justice is inconceivable. To do so would be to say that we as a country are aware of the harms we are causing to tamariki and mokopuna Māori, and are therefore complicit in perpetuating these harms. It would be a step backwards in our collective quest to increase the overall health of communities. We know too much about how the old system treated our whānau to go backwards.”

A more forward-focused whole-of-environment approach is required to unblock barriers, they say.

“While we are thrilled at these radical health reforms that seek to disrupt and rebuild a system to improve health outcomes, we are set up to fail unless the other parts of the whole environment - the socio-economic, judicial, and educational systems which feed into it are also addressed,” the release said.

“We should not be asking whether we should scrap the circuit-breaking systemic reforms implemented to address Māori health inequity. Instead, redirect those questions to our partners across education, social welfare, housing and criminal justice and ask why they are not also undergoing reform to address Māori inequities.

“Until they do join Te Aka Whai Ora and unblock barriers and silos, Aotearoa will never unlock its full potential and a shared vision of all communities thriving.”

Both organisations are highly critical of electioneering targeting Te Aka Whai Ora as a waste of money and that question why it has not delivered results already.

“It took at least 150 years of oppression to accrue the Māori health inequities we experience today. It is laughable to expect a single health entity with a pittance of the health budget to fix 150+ years of inequity in one single year, yet the calls persist.

“Māori have always known it was going to require patience and a term vision to unpack and turn around the vast inequities that persist. Our continued support for the reforms is not just because it is what we have long advocated for but because the lives of whānau Māori depend on it. The reforms are the system reboot we need and that our whānau deserve.”