'Disruptive' push for Maori health

17:00, Aug 29 2012

There are high hopes that Taranaki's new whanau ora organisation will be the answer to improving poor Maori health statistics.

Te Kawau Maro, an alliance between Tui Ora and the National Hauora Coalition, was launched at WITT yesterday.

The alliance has won a five-year, $7.8 million contract to implement the new holistic whanau ora concept bringing together all Taranaki-based Maori services.

In 2010 whanau ora was awarded $134.3 million of new government funding over four years.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia - who has been the driver behind the whanau ora concept - was unable to attend yesterday because of ill health.

Mrs Turia's speech outlining her aspirations for the new organisation - in the knowledge that all other efforts to improve poor Maori health were failing - was read out for her by former children's commissioner Cindy Kiro.

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The "disruptive innovation" of whanau ora would turn conventional practice on its head, Mrs Turia said.

"Simply doing more of the same is no longer an option.

"We need innovation; we need solutions; we need to do things differently.

Incremental change over decades had not achieved the gains envisaged.

The role for the unique alliance would put into effect Taranaki District Health Board's Maori Health Strategy 2001 to 2029, Mrs Turia said.

"Te Kawau Maro aims to improve Maori health through the implementation of whanau ora over a 20-year period," Mrs Turia said.

It aimed to do this by improving access, building Maori service provision capacity, improving mainstream services, strengthening strategic relationships and monitoring performance, she said.

The revolutionary alliance reduced the number of contracted providers in the past from 31 to one.

"It brings together the whole canvas of services across personal health, general practice, mental health, mama, pepi and tamariki - the entire spectrum of needs and priorities we might expect to see throughout the region being collapsed into one.

"By its very nature whanau ora extends across the whole gamut - we may be looking at diabetes management or gout treatment and instead uncover the need for lifestyle change.

"We cannot hope to heal infectious skin conditions without also looking at living arrangements or household conditions.

"What you are doing here in Taranaki is very important - and what happens next will help to set the scene to accept "disruptive innovation" as part of core practice across many sectors and many communities," Mrs Turia said.

Tui Ora chairman Kura Denness said the controversial alliance was logical, "and it meant that for Maori health we got more bang for our buck".

Changes in society left many Maori children without strong, positive male role models, she said.

"Poverty has gouged out the heart of whanau and the struggle to achieve equitable and equal access to health, education, housing, employment and justice grinds our people down on an hourly basis every day, every week, every year."

Tui Ora chief executive Hayden Wano said if the alliance got things right all the region would benefit.

"Better health outcomes spin off into countless other areas of people's lives."

Whanau ora would wrap a "suite of services" around whanau and family, as happened in a similar way with hospice care.

The unique opportunity would enable the alliance to take one single view of Taranaki.

"This has not been achieved from a kaupapa Maori perspective in the time I have worked in this field."

Taranaki Daily News