Hauora Maaori partner, Health Through The Marae, based at Taahuna Pa Marae in Waiuku, are continuing the legacy of their founder, the late Tahuna Minhinnick, to support whaanau to live healthier lives through their whare oranga approach to let whaanau lead in their own wellbeing.

Tahuna’s vision that ‘marae health is fundamental to Maaori health’ initiated the whare oranga concept – a place of wellness for whānau to call their own. Over 20 marae across the motu have now adapted the whare oranga model to meet the needs of their hapuu and iwi.

“It’s about having a range of services that whaanau can determine what being well means to them. Every marae, hapuu and iwi can determine their own health needs. Health Through The Marae provides that space for them to take charge of their own health,” says Health Through The Marae Chief Executive, Piritania Minhinnick.

“We create our health services based on what whaanau need, whether it’s clinical care through our GP service, helping to educate whaanau on healthy kai, providing a space for healing through rongoaa Maaori, or helping them on their fitness journey through our gym programmes.”

Doing regular home visits with whaanau in their community are crucial to the creation of their services.

“Home visits guide us on what’s going on out in the papa kāinga that we need to respond to and how whaanau want to engage with us. This means we get everyone’s story, not just mum’s or nanna’s story. There’s not one solution, we need to keep connecting in, find out what the issues are and then address them the best we can.”

One of the whare oranga approaches is Whai Oranga - a reciprocity programme where whaanau exchange learnings through fitness and maatauranga Maaori. Whaanau with long-term health conditions or recovering from injury are paired with personal trainers to support them on their fitness journey, in turn, trainers can learn from participating whaanau te reo Maaori or about kaupapa that’s of interest to them e.g., rongoaa Maaori or learning to weave.

“When we ran the pilot programme with 40 whaanau, some of the goals were ‘I want to be able to mow my lawns’ or ‘I want to be able to walk to my mailbox’ or I haven’t been outside for over 18 months’. It was a big step for them to take part in the programme. We’re privileged that they wanted to share their journey with us,” says Piritania.

“It was not only transformative for whaanau, but also for the trainers. Some of them were carrying mamae they didn’t expect to work through. It’s whanaungatanga – reciprocal care between the trainers and the whaanau involved.

“We’re hoping to see the programme being adapted throughout the motu. We’ve got 10 whaanau who are part of our diabetes programme that we’re planning to run Whai Oranga with them as well.”

Taking a whaanau led approach is the only way we’re going to be able achieve pae ora and combat serious diseases like diabetes that significantly impact whaanau Maaori says Maiaka Hāpori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health, Te Aka Whai Ora - Māori Health Authority, Selah Hart.

“Services like Health Through The Marae are shifting the dial on how we can take a preventative approach to health that’s kaupapa Maaori front and centre. Te Aka Whai Ora understands the importance to invest and continue to support kaupapa Maaori services that prioritise prevention and self-management solutions that embed a maatauranga Maaori approach,” says Selah.

“We know that services that work with whaanau and allows their mana motuhake to take lead in their wellbeing will always benefit them and their wider community.”