Making te reo Māori a means of health and wellbeing

By Herewini Waikato

The Māori health sector, Māori media and Māori language experts want to increase the use of the Māori language in health.

Today Māori public health provider Hāpai Te Hauora hosted a symposium in Rotorua to advance the idea and says this could also be a factor in creating healthier communities. 

Te Mana Hauora chair Michael Naera said Māori patients struggled with English medical terms and would find it easier if they were in Māori.  

Hāpai Te Hauora director Paora Brosnan said attendees would discuss ways in which "to enrich the Māori language into their spaces to create healthier communities”.   

But he said over the past few years, there has been a lack of preparation and plan for te reo Maōri use in the health sector. A prime example “is when Covid-19 first hit, in the first six months there were so many different Māori names used for the word Covid”.

Brosnan hoped the language could take precedence in future planning within different sectors from broadcasting to health.

“It’s the health sector, education, housing, all these areas. The revitalisation of the language in all these areas is what we at Hāpai te Hauora are progressing toward, to give space for te reo Māori to be acknowledged, received, and distributed in all areas and sectors so that our language is thriving everywhere and at all times,” kaumatua and Hāpai te Hauora supporter Rangi McLean said.

The Te Mana Hauora chair said there was understanding in Māori language use.


Bringing te reo Māori into the hauora space

“Here’s an example of schizophrenia and pōrangirangi. Pōrangirangi connects our clients, our whānau members to the earth and to the sky as a means of empowering, identity, whakapapa, to be loved. Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is a word from the UK and that’s it, you have an issue. The Māori language used in the health sector gives life and well-being, and gives hope to the whānau member."

In 1998 Hāpai Te Hauora was formed to join Ngāti Whātua, Waikato-Tainui, and Te Whānau o Waipareira as a collective in the health and wellbeing area. Hāpai holds a number of Ministry of Health contracts.