Minister of Health Andrew Little was in Whanganui on Thursday, meeting with Māori and iwi health practitioners tasked with delivering a new programme for at-risk mothers and their whānau.
He Puna Ora, roughly translated as "the source of wellness", is a partnership between local iwi health providers in the Whanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitīkei communities, overseen by the Whanganui District Health Board's Māori Health Outcomes Advisory Group.
Groups involved in the partnership include Te Oranganui Trust, Te Kotuku Hauora, Nga Waihua o Paerangi Trust, Te Puke Karanga Health and Mokai Patea Services.
The service aims to support young wāhine and their pēpi (children) through a mixture of both wānanga and mātauranga (Māori knowledge). The service specifically caters towards mothers who are battling substance abuse with alcohol or drugs, and are poorly connected to health and social service support.
Te Oranganui Mātaiwhetū/chief executive Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata said the new service was a by-Māori-for-Māori approach, with a large focus on whānau and community.
"We might think we might understand what is happening for whānau, we might think we understand what is happening for hapū māmā, but the true voice is those most affected by the issues."
Walsh-Tapiata said there were two methods of delivery, including clinical support but also Māori methods of wellness.
"In the development of our particular approach and our model, we had copious hui to really get us to understand, what does this mean for us? It's no use having a big picture if in fact at the end of the day there are concerns about delivery.
"We have come up with what we believe is quite a unique service that services the DHB rōhe."
The pregnancy and parenting service joins five other DHBs with similar services across New Zealand, with the Government putting $7 million towards further expanding the programmes.
Speaking to the new Whanganui service, Little said it was an example of how the benefits of grounded local communities can be used to promote better health outcomes for vulnerable people.
"It's an example of actually, when you do it right, you hand over to the community the opportunity to design what is needed. We've set the objective for what the funding is for, working with the community to work out the design, work out what is needed and create something that suits.
"The more we do at this sort of level takes the pressure off GPs and the hospital services. More stuff like this is what we need to see."