Some political parties are prioritising Māori health more than others this election, with solid commitments to increasing Whānau Ora funding or establishing a dedicated Māori health authority.
Professor of Māori Health at Auckland University of Technology Denise Wilson has been studying the Māori health policies of every major political party to find out how they intend to grow the Māori health work force, support Māori autonomy in health and support Māori health services.
Māori leadership and autonomy in health
Wilson identified there are three parties with a commitment to establishing a Māori health agency or authority, including Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party.
Each party wants to incorporate the principles of Te Tiriti and matauranga Māori into the health system, increase Māori leadership and control in commissioning health services for Māori.
She said it was pleasing to see, but it could go further.
"It's a really good idea that we do have this, but I think it needs to go further than what the Health and Disability System Review Report recommended," Wilson said.
"I'd like to see that key Māori health providers are around that table in the design and development of what that Māori health authority looks like and the structures that would be put up, and the outcomes that they would be seeking.
"Māori who are working in the health arena and who are working with our people on the ground really need to be involved in determining what services are ongoing to work and what's not, what's wrong with the current system and how that could be changed for the betterment of Māori."
Grow the Māori health workforce
Wilson said it appears that only two parties had Māori-specific policies to address the health workforce including the Greens and the Māori Party.
The Green Party has proposed scholarships and professional development for Māori seeking management roles in health, while the Māori Party aims to progress pay negotiations for Māori nurses.
But she said the policies would do little to build the number of Māori in the health workforce.
"The idea of scholarships and professional development is really good but I'm a bit disappointed that it's just focused on management roles in health. They are needed, definitely, but our Māori health workforce is woefully underrepresented and is a persistent, ongoing problem," she said.
"We need to focus on a really strong strategy to build our Māori health workforce."
She said solutions could focus on Māori health leadership and looking at the recruitment and retention strategies that are being used within the educational institutions that are producing our health professionals.
Support for Māori health services
There is strong support for Whānau Ora across three parties including Labour, National and the Māori Party.
National's Māori-specific health policies focus entirely on Whānau Ora, including a review of its commissioning model. While the Green Party has taken a more general approach, to increase funding to Māori and Pasifika community health providers.
"There's evidence to show Whānau Ora is doing a really good job with some of our whānau and I think it has a place in improving the wellbeing and outcomes for whānau," Wilson said.
"I think it's one approach and probably needs more funding, but it shouldn't be the only model and there are other models that could be used that some of our kaupapa Māori health providers are working with, and they aren't necessarily considered Whānau Ora or commissioned as a Whānau Ora provider.
"Our whānau are diverse and diverse in their needs so we need to have a range of services that are going to meet their needs."