23 Sep 2021

MHA members welcome chance to drive reforms in Māori health

6:29 pm on 23 September 2021

The government has announced the people who will lead the Māori Health Authority that it hopes will address the staggering inequities Māori face in the health system.

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Lady Tureiti Moxon who is joining the Māori Health Authority says it's a chance for "taking our own mana into our own hands". Photo: Supplied

The MHA is part of reforms that will disestablish the country's 20 district health boards, to be replaced by one new body, Health NZ.

The Māori Health Authority will work alongside Health New Zealand with a joint role, commissioning for primary, community and kaupapa Māori services.

Health NZ will be chaired by Rob Campbell who has extensive union, public and private sector governance experience.

He will be joined by former Cabinet minister and National Party MP Amy Adams as well as Dr Curtis Walker, Dame Karen Poutasi, Vui Mark Gosche, Vanessa Stoddart and Cassandra Crowley.

Co-chair of the Māori Health Authority Sharon Shea will also sit on the Health NZ board.

Awerangi Tamihere of Te Whanau Waipereira says this reminds her of her great grandmother.

"I actually go back to my great grandmorther, she was a foundation member of the Women's Welfare League.

"She passed away before I was born but she left behind a whole lot of writings about her dream for the health and wellbeing of her own whānau, hapu, iwi and our people, and it's [Maori Health Authority] to uphold the dreams and aspirations of those that have gone before us," she said.

She has had extensive experience working across a range of entities and recently has been on the frontline with Te Whānau Waipareira to help increase Māori vaccination rates in Tāmaki Makaurau.

the Whanau Centre testing clinic in Henderson lead by the Waipareira Trust

Testing for Covid-19 at a clinic in Henderson led by the Waipareira Trust which is also leading the way with vaccinations among Māori. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

A health leader who is not known to hold back from taking a hard line against the government - Lady Tureiti Moxon - will also join the Māori Health Authority.

She explains her dream for the new body.

"It's good to feel like for the first time for ever that we are now starting to get a bit of traction on Māori making decision for ourselves and taking our own mana into our own hands to be able to do for ourselves what we believe needs to be done," Lady Tureiti says.

Shea is the chair of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and will also be a member of the Health NZ body.

She hopes the reforms will create equity for everyone.

"It is about enabling whānau to be the agents of their own change, in creating lots more opportunities for us to support that and build whānau capability so our children, our mokopuna, can fulfil the rangatiratanga they were born with," Shea said.

She is clear that the accountability to bridge the gap sits on the shoulders of the whole health system not on Māori themselves.

The Māori Health Authority will work alongside Health New Zealand with a joint role, commissioning for primary, community and kaupapa Māori services.

Tipa Mahuta will sit aside Shea as co-chair.

Her pae tawhiti is quite clear.

"For me it's as simple as whanau Māori can champion their health future but at the moment they are so far away from directing their health outcomes," Mahuta said.

Leaders from across Māori health, governance and academia make up the rest of the lineup.

They include Chris Tooley, Dr Sue Crengle, Dr Mataroria Lyndon and Fiona Pimm.

Health Minister Andrew Little concedes that if the MHA was in place prior to Covid-19 it would have mitigated the slow uptake the government is seeing on Māori getting vaccinated

"The Māori Health Authority would have been a strong Māori voice right at the outset of all the planning and decisions being made, not only how to respond to Covid-19 but also running the vaccination campaign, that would have been the voice at the table from the outset," Little said.

The mahi is already underway in preparation for the authority to be officially in place from July next year once enabling legislation is passed.

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