An Alternative Model of Wellness (Nga Tapa Wha)

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was a result of his research which focused on American  subjects, usually College (University) students.  There are many other models as well and today I want to write about one theat is indigenous to New Zealand.  Mason Durie constructed a model  known as Te Whare Tapa Wha.  A literal translation is the four walls that support the house Image   These walls are representative of a number of aspects of Maori belief that when they all fit together provide a holistic model of what health looks like.  When any of these areas are out of balance then the whole person (or indeed the whanau or family are not well.  These four concepts of Family, physical. Psychological and spiritual health according to Durie must be in harmony and if not then there is likely to be sickness.  If someone is unwell then all of these features need to be addressed.  Such a model is quite a challenge in our market driven society.  In New Zealand we have a Neo-liberal focus in much of our economic  and health policies that focus on the individual and on private good, namely those that benefit the most should pay for the good that they receive.  The problem with such an ideology is that who defines what is a private good and what is a public good is contested territory.

One of the supposed benefits of such policies was the so called trickle down theory if tax cuts are granted then these will trickle down to those at the bottom of the economic heap.  The reality of this is very different.  What we have seen over the past 30 years is a huge and ever increasing gap between those who have and those who do not.  There has been an increase in social ills over this time especially crime and ill health.  Interestingly there has been an exponential growth in obesity .   I wonder now with what I have learned about obesity about the effect of such economic policies and whether in fact obesity in New Zealand particularly is becoming an epidemic of poverty.  Dame Anne Salmond a prominent historian and author shares her views on this .  Given the economic inequalities that Salmond points to the challenge for a campaign like Million for a Million Image  Is how to take its campaign to the hearts and minds of people in places like the mean streets of Glen Innes or Otara.  For a campaign like this to work it has to become main stream.  It needs to be being talked about in the offices of high rise buildings as well as the tea rooms of the factories of South Auckland or fot the matter any where in the country.  One of the very real issues is that eating healthy foods is more expensive.  With the increase in GST and the economic down turn one of the first areas affected is fresh foods.  Now we may say this is really a matter of education and choices.  We could argue semantics all day however have a read of the speech given by Dame Anne Salmond and then put that into the context of the Whare Tapa Wha model that I have shared and then think about it for a day or so and see if your attitudes are challenged.

Till next time,



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