I heard a wonderful story some time ago about Te Whare Tapa Wha that I wanted to share with you. It came from a discussion around the kitchen table where all good discussions take place. Let me give you some context first.

The Constitution of the World Health Organisation Principles state that “Health ….. [is] not merely the absence of disease …”.  And I want to address this using Dr. Mason Durie’s inspired model of health.

The building in the picture is a wharenui (A large meeting house). Simply put, the wharenui is a depiction of a person with the ridge board of the roof being the spine and the rafters represent the ribs of a body. For those of you who have been fortunate to go into a wharenui, you will know that this is not just a building, it is the story of our ancestors, our history, and our people. The walls of the wharenui have been likened to different areas of health that make up the whole person and when the walls become unbalanced (whether it is in excess or depletion) the person becomes unwell. And often times this is where the story ends. These principles have been discussed used extensively across many platforms in New Zealand including education, health, arts and design and careers advice.

This is where the kitchen table discussion picks up, this is the abbreviated version!

Any good builder knows that a well-constructed foundation will make the wharenui solid. Likewise when we give ourselves a solid foundation for health and wellbeing to build on, we become more resilient. When the wharenui is surrounded by a healthy environment, of land, air, water, sea and community the wharenui will thrive. And you guessed it … when we surround ourselves with the right environment, the right people, the right food, and we take care of our four walls (tapa wha) our health too will thrive.

Dr Mason Durie is Māori but this model is certainly is not just for Māori (as I’ve heard some say). The principles of Te Whare Tapa Wha apply to us all. Noho ora mai! (Stay in good health)

This article was written by Roimata Takie – Programme Leader, Level 4