It's been a memorable few weeks for newly appointed Whanganui District Health Board member Mary Bennett.
For the current chair of the DHB's iwi relationship board Hauora a Iwi, the appointment has been a long time coming. The DHB position became vacant early last year.
"If you think about last year with Covid, as you may expect, the Government has different priorities when dealing with the health of the nation, so we have been patient," Bennett said.
Bennett got the letter of appointment from the Minister's office on the eve of the announcement of the health reforms. Details of exactly what the health reforms will look like are not clear yet but turning around current statistics is the priority.
"What does it look like and what do we want to see over the next 10, 20, 30 years?
"How will we know when the system is delivering for our people? And one way we will know is if the statistics change dramatically."
One thing that could bring about change is the $242 million allocated in this year's budget for the establishment of a Māori Health Authority.
"We know that the current model, the current system, isn't working for everybody," Bennett said.
"So finding out the "why" and being able to provide a solution that is right for the various communities that we have in our wider rohe is very important."
"Some of the things we do know, and we take the learnings from last year's Covid response, is going to the people makes a big difference. We don't want to have a system that continues to be illness-driven."
While statistics aren't expected to change straight away, long-term collaboration between government services looks set to play a big part in the future of preventative health care.
"Some of these things are absolutely going to be intergenerational but we've already seen examples of how various systems can come together to deliver a service in a more holistic way."
For now, the demographic of each area and each community's individual needs are all under consideration.
"The need in the middle reaches of the river could be very different to the needs in the lower reaches. The needs in Waverley, where we have an older retired population, the majority are actually non-Māori, could be quite different from the need of the reaches in the middle of the awa. Taking all of those dynamics into account, what's the service? Geographically how might we deliver?
"The health reforms are a great opportunity for Māori, for iwi to show how things can work differently. I think that we can't forget that Health NZ will also have a responsibility in terms of equity."
The current DHB system will be scrapped at the end of June 2022 to be replaced with a new public health agency under the Ministry of Health, alongside the Māori Health Authority. Reforms will be phased in over the next three years.
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