A family-centred approach to delivering key social services has short and long-term benefits, according to new research on Whanau Ora.
Apparent links between seemingly unrelated outcomes were also noted - for example, some people who increased their knowledge of their whakapapa (genealogy) had a reduced rate in smoking.
However, service providers have complained that they do not get enough funding for the workload that a family-approach entails, and unhelpful rivalry and competition exists between some.
The Maori Party's flagship Whanau Ora policy was established in 2010 as a holistic approach to providing health and social services to families under stress with the aim of helping them to take control of their lives.
Recent criticism of spending on Whanau Ora has led Labour to call for a thorough investigation of the policy, while others such as NZ First are strong opponents and want it scrapped altogether.
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell has therefore welcomed today's largely-positive report, published by Te Puni Kokiri (TPK), the Maori development ministry that is the lead agency for Whanau Ora initiatives.
The expansion of Whanau Ora was a bottom-line for the party heading into the last election, and the programme received a boost in funding after this year's Budget.
"I think we were in a good space, it talks to the issues that were being asked about in Parliament over the last year or so, and gives us a really good platform," Mr Flavell said.
"Have all of the issues been dealt with on this particular day right here and right now? Not quite, but we are moving in the right direction."
Maori development spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta said there was no evidence that the successful family-centred approach in Whanau Ora would be picked-up by other agencies like social development, health and education.
"Whanau Ora can't do it alone and these decisions should have been made before Budget 2015...releasing the report after funding decisions have been made makes no sense when they could've used evidence to inform better policy.
"Labour would promote a whole of Government approach to provide more effective implementation of policies that improve wellbeing outcomes for Maori and all New Zealanders."
Total spending on Whanau Ora has been $138 million since 2010.
In May, Auditor-General Lyn Provost released an often heavily-critical report on Whanau Ora, which stated that TPK could have spent a greater proportion of funds on families and not administration.
Mr Flavell said administration spending had decreased from nearly a third of total spending to less than 15 per cent.
There was a budget of $9.6 million for research in the first four years of Whanau Ora, and today's report used that information and cost $20,000 to produce.
"This [the TPK report] provides a fairly good overview of the research was done for a fair number of families. We are talking about 60 action research reports, 200 monitoring reports, 895 whanau surveys," Mr Flavell said.
"There is still more research to go on as we move into stage two, but as a comprehensive piece of information that allows us to say, 'we've got the platform right', I think we are in the right space."
The TPK report was peer reviewed by Professor Emeritus Sir Mason Durie, senior researcher Dr Fiona Cram and the Ministry for Social Development social policy evaluation unit.
It found that placing the needs of families at the centre of service delivery has had significant results for families, including those that were previously seen as "hard to reach".
Those most common improvements in the medium-term were accessing services, happiness, relationships and leadership, where over 70 per cent of participants saw improvements.
In her foreword, Michelle Hippolite, TPK's chief executive, said "much was made of the administrative aspects of Whanau Ora" after the Auditor-General's report.
However, Ms Hippolite said today's report showed that whanau-centred approaches had a positive impact with immediate and long-term benefits.
"While there is much to do in responding to whanau needs and aspirations, the report shows that whanau-centred approaches are a powerful catalyst for creating positive change."
Mr Flavell described Sir Mason, who led the taskforce charged with putting the Whanau Ora vision in place, as the "Godfather" of Whanau Ora.
He said that, despite that involvement, it was appropriate for the retired professor of psychiatry to be involved in the peer review of the TPK report.
"It wasn't just him, there were a couple of others...I am sure he would have been pretty critical of this report if it did not exceed or get to the standards that he was hoping for, because there is a fair bit of vested interest, in one sense, to make sure that we get it right."