The Te Whare Tapa Whā approach to health and wellbeing was developed in 1984 by leading Māori health advocate Sir Mason Durie.
Developed in response to a piece of research done by the Māori Women’s Welfare League in the late 1970’s (Rapuora: Health and Maori Women) which uncovered a multitude of health issues, barriers, and structural racism against Māori within the Western model of health, the Te Whare Tapa Whā approach was created to provide a new framework in which to approach the health and wellbeing among Māori in Aotearoa.
Incorporating all aspects of hauora, this approach provides a holistic model of health which showcases the interconnectedness of all parts of our lives and the people in it. Describing health as a wharenui/meeting house with four walls, each pillar relates to a different aspect of hauora: taha wairua (spiritual wellbeing), taha hinengaro (mental/emotional wellbeing), taha tinana (physical wellbeing), and taha whānau (family and social wellbeing).
Taha wairua explores the connections and relationships to the environment, heritage, and people in our lives, both past and present. With spiritual awareness a fundamental part of Māori culture, it is often believed that a lack of spiritual connection can contribute to ill health.
Just like physical health, mental and emotional health also needs to be taken care of; one cannot exist without the other. Taha hinengaro focuses on the heart, mind, conscience, thoughts and feelings, as well as how we communicate and think.
Optimal physical health enables us to grow, develop, and feel strong, better equipping us to deal with life’s challenges. When we take care of ourselves physically through the means of nourishing our bodies with the right food, getting enough sleep, and exercising, we are able to move and function in the best way possible, increasing our overall hauora.
Taha whānau is a fundamental aspect of Māori culture and wellbeing. It’s about belonging and identity, who we share our lives with, our whakapapa, and our community, with supportive whānau significantly contributing to individual wellbeing and identity.
This simple model provides an easy to understand yet fundamental framework of how we need to approach health and wellbeing in Aotearoa, especially amongst our tamariki Māori. A holistic approach is needed to properly understand and treat imbalances in the day-to-day lives of our tamariki in order to help them grow, succeed, and thrive.