Whanau Orā News

Māori Models of Health & Wellbeing

To better understand Māori perspectives on health and well-being it is useful to examine key Māori models that have been developed and which are in current use.

Each of these models reflect and highlight the interconnectedness and holistic nature of Māori perspectives of health and well-being. These models highlight the links between the physical, the spiritual, the environment, the individual and importantly the family.

Te Whare Tapa Whā

This model incorporates four key elements of Māori health and wellness. Taha Tinana (physical health) references the body and is the physical manifestation of well-being. Taha Wairua (spiritual health) reflects the spiritual element of wellness. Taha Whānau (family health) details the need and importance of the family on one’s wellbeing, while Taha Hinengaro (mental health) relates to the importance of the mind and its ability to communicate, think and feel emotion.

This model conveys the importance of balance, with the idea that if one of these key dimensions is missing or damaged then the resulting imbalance may lead to illness. This model was developed in response to the lack of recognition of the spiritual element of health, an element that is becoming increasingly important now in mainstream health models.

Te Pae Māhutonga

This model uses the Southern Cross to depict six key issues for Māori health promotion and reflects a Māori worldview.

It highlights the linkages between Mauriora (cultural identity), Waiora (physical environment), Toiora (healthy lifestyles) and Te Oranga (participation in society).

This model of health promotion is currently being used in cities around New Zealand to affect positive change for communities regardless of ethnicity or culture.

Te Wheke

This model seeks to acknowledge traditional Māori perspectives, which take a holistic approach to the connection between the mind, the spirit, the whānau (family) and the physical world in a way that is intricately linked.

These linkages and connections have always been in place and it was only with the introduction of Western medicine that separation between these dimensions emerged.

He Pou Oranga Tangata Whenua

This model was developed to ensure that traditional Māori values, knowledge and institutions were recognised as key indicators of toiora (health, well-being).

The term He Pou Oranga Tangata Whenua: Tangata Whenua Determinants of Health describes the pillars that support a state of toiora within whānau.

He Pou Oranga Tangata Whenua model seeks to make a direct connection between wider health and social determinants such as education, resources, language and culture, control over life circumstances, housing and employment.

He Pou Oranga Tangata Whenua model also provides an opportunity to begin to describe actions and practices towards the achievement of the elements inside the Toiora Model.  This model is currently used by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.Summary


While this summary is not exhaustive, these models will help to shed light on how Māori views on health and well-being are understood within an indigenous context.

It is hoped that a greater appreciation of Māori models of health will emerge and give practical expression to the philosophies they express helping to guide the types of outcomes which are initiated by practitioners (Kingi 2005) working in mainstream sectors.


  1. sandy TeRito

    well done!!

  2. Rachel

    I would love to hear more about the Kingi 2005 article you have quoted in the last paragraph. Can you give me some more info on this?
    I remember learning about Ha Ora holistic health at high school and it has greatly shaped my understanding of the world. I’m currently in the position of trying to implement it and integrate it into my work and would love to learn more.

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