Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Covid-19 health response and the DHB reforms were too big to give to a single minister.
Andrew Little, Chris Hipkins, Peeni Henare, Ayesha Verrall and Aupito William Sio make up Ardern's new health team.
Little will be Minister of Health, responsible for shepherding the major reforms outlined in the Heather Simpson review as well keeping the hospital lights on and bolstering mental health support.
Little said the reform programme in Health needed someone to drive officials to make change, and though it was daunting, he was the right person to do that.
He had recently read the Heather Simpson review and "relished" the challenge to implement the recommendations.
"We really have to drive change. We know some populations are not getting the services they need. We see that specifically with Maori and Pasifika. We know in rural areas they struggle to get health services in the way they should."
Chris Hipkins has been given a new portfolio as Minister for Covid-19 Response, which takes in testing, contact tracing, border control measures as well as the ministerial role that Megan Woods has played overseeing managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
Hipkins said Covid-19 "would be with us for some time yet" and he was "very comfortable" continuing to lead the health response.
Pressure on managed isolation, particularly in light of Kiwis coming home for Christmas, would be an issue in coming months, as is keeping testing numbers up.
"We've got a very sound system for managed isolation. I'll be looking closely at how we can improve that," Hipkins said.
Tomorrow a booking system would be in place so people had to book a place before flying to New Zealand, he said, and that would help in managing demand.
Hipkins said he told Ardern it would be challenging to have both Health and Education, but the Covid-19 component was one he could do alongside Education. He said his workload may even be less than it has been in recent months.
How the public sector works best to line up behind the Covid-19 response was something he will be looking at. National has previously criticised the many departments and ministers involved in the Covid-19 response as inefficient, and lacking lines of accountability.
Hipkins said there would eventually be an inquiry into the overall Covid-19 response, but the focus at this stage was still on the current system and how it can be improved.
Peeni Henare, as Associate Health Minister, will have responsibility for Māori health, while Sio in the same role will have responsibility for Pasifika health.
Ayesha Verrall, an infectious diseases specialist, has been brought into Cabinet as Associate Health Minister as well as Associate Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Minister for Food Safety and Minister for Seniors.
Verrall will have public health responsibilities, including setting up a national Public Health Agency, which public health experts have been calling for.
It is not the first time a new MP has immediately been made a Cabinet Minister, and Ardern said it was a reflection of Verrall's expertise.
Verrall said she was "humbled" to be brought into Cabinet straight away. "I'm eager to bring my expertise."
"There's always room for improvement and I'll bring a critical eye to the briefings I see in the next few weeks."
Being smokefree by 2025 was a particular focus of hers in the public health space, she said.
Ardern said the health response in a Covid-ravaged world was front of mind in choosing Cabinet positions.
"I do want to acknowledge that forming a government in the midst of a global pandemic creates an absolute focus on the enormity of the task in front of all of us.
"The world is in a situation we have never seen before. The UK and Europe are re-entering lockdowns, daily case rates are back to the peaks seen in the first wave and recent cases at our border show we aren't immune to what is happening in the rest of the world.
"The challenge of Covid will be with us for many, many months to come. It will not be easy, but we have the team to continue taking on that challenge, and that is what you elected us to do."
Ardern said the major health reforms would be a huge piece of work and "cannot be carried out successfully by the same person managing the day-to-day of Covid".
"Andrew will ensure we continue these reforms, but also ensure that the remainder of the health system and New Zealanders that access it, are getting the services they need and deserve."
The reforms are expected to see the number of DHBs reduced in the next five years as well as establish a Māori Health Authority to push for more equitable health outcomes.