Ancient Māori health treatments make successful comeback with no safety complaints despite 65,000 treatments

It's been four months since the biggest transformation in New Zealand's public health system took place.

While the Government has conceded the struggling health system hasn't been an overnight fix, Rongoā Māori, traditional Māori health care, has been on the rise.

The Government has announced a $72 million funding package to support Māori providers.

Ancient Māori health treatments, known as Rongoā Māori, are making a comeback in Northland.

"We are neglected in terms of services, especially in a small place like Ngāti Hine, Moerewa, Kawakawa, it makes sense that we have these services that are designed for us," patient Heeni Hoterene said.

They are services that are highly valued by whānau and health clinicians alike. 

A newly-established clinic Hohou Te Rongoā at Ōtiria marae in Moerewa is one of three government-funded collectives in Northland and the results are positive.

"In the last two years, 65,000 rongoā treatments have been administered at least [and] not one safety complaint reported to those organisations that deliver those services," Te Kāhui Rongoā chair Donna Kerridge said. "Not one, I'd love to know another health and wellbeing practice in Aotearoa that can boast the same safety standard."

Kerridge is one of the practitioners from the Northland clinic and she also represents Te Kāhui Rongoā, the national collective for practitioners, which has over 1000 members.

"The more people that we can help up front and the more people we have to improve health equity, the less we have to spend in later stage care. The less we have to spend in surgery that saves money that can be applied elsewhere in the health system. To me, it's a no-brainer," Kerridge said.

The Māori Health Authority agrees. Te Aka Whai Ora on Thursday announced $71.6 million of funding to support Māori providers.

That included $8.8 million specifically for te ao Māori solutions, such as Rongoā Māori and Mātauranga Māori. 

It's the first significant increase since the Health Ministry has supported access and delivery of rongoā services since 1991. 

It includes:

  • $29.3 million for priority areas within Te Pae Tata | interim New Zealand Health Plan that offer the greatest opportunities to improve pae ora
  • $13 million boost for Māori primary and community providers to address historic underfunding and build a sustainable foundation
  • $17.6 million for te ao Māori solutions, mātauranga Māori, and population health initiatives that are central to whānau wellbeing
  • $11.7 million to support innovation, workforce development, and whānau voice so Māori are part of the design, delivery, and evaluation of health services

"We are at the top of proven capability, we've been using it for 1000 years and I think we need to recognise that and I think at long last continue that way," Kerridge said.

"Us healing ourselves is our rangatiratanga," Hoterene said.

Recognition of thousands of years of traditional Māori health care - and it's available to all Kiwis to better improve health outcomes for the whole country.

Ancient Māori health treatments make successful comeback with no safety complaints despite 65,000 treatments