A Māori-led programme for at-risk mothers and their babies in the Whanganui district is an example of allowing community health practitioners to design local services that are relevant and meet specific need, the Health Minister says.
In Whanganui on Thursday, Andrew Little met with Māori health practitioners who developed the pregnancy and parenting service He Puna Ora. The outreach service is for pregnant women and mothers who are vulnerable to alcohol and other drug addiction issues, and are poorly connected to health and social services.
Iwi providers throughout the wider Whanganui region will work closely with the women to provide intensive support until their babies are three years old.
The service is one of two new pilots, with the second launching soon in Bay of Plenty. Four others are already operating in Waitemata, Hawke's Bay, Northland and Te Tairāwhiti.
He Puna Ora is being delivered through the Māori Health Outcomes Advisory Group by a collective of five iwi health providers: Te Oranganui in Whanganui, Te Kōtuku Hauora in Marton, Te Puke Karanga Hauora in Raetihi, Ngā Waihua o Paerangi in Ohakune and Mōkai Pātea Services in Taihape.
Little told Local Democracy Reporting that the initiative showed how local communities can provide a more intensive level of support and promote better health outcomes for vulnerable people.
"This has been put together by a number of iwi and kaupapa Māori organisations determining what is needed for the local population. It hasn't been instructed or directed from the Ministry of Health in Wellington - it's been very much handed over to the community … and they've come up with something really special," Little said.
"When you do it right, you hand over to the community the opportunity to design what is needed. We've set the objective and what the funding is for, we work with the community to work out the design, work out what is needed, what's relevant to the local community, and create something that suits."
The minister said $1.9 billion was allocated in 2019 for mental health and addiction transformation programmes over four to five years. Delivering tailored services at this level would help take pressure off hospital and GP services, and the country could expect to see more community health care in the next few years.
"We've actually been trying as a country for the best part of 20 years to really beef up our primary and community care offering. We've kind of stopped and started and we've never really changed a lot. This has been an opportunity to really fundamentally change how we involve community in doing something that's tailored to their specific needs.
"More stuff like this is actually what we need to see in a whole lot of different areas and for a whole lot of different reasons."
Little said the government was finalising decisions on structural issues to "seriously address" equity problems and the need to boost primary and community health care.
Announcements could be expected in the next few weeks.
Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.