Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

MAORIHTH 701 - Foundations of Māori Health

15 Points

Semester 1 and 2



Provides an overview of the many dimensions of Māori Health. It examines the historical and contemporary determinants of Māori health status, and outlines strategies for improving Māori health in the context of the Treaty of Waitangi, and reducing health inequalities.  


Restriction: MAORIHTH 301 

Course outline

Goals of the course 

The course is founded on an approach to Māori health that is evidence-based, affirms Māori rights, and is centred on a critical analysis of ethnic inequalities in health. Underpinning this is a conviction that everyone has a responsibility to address Māori health in the context of improving the health of all people. The course seeks to assist students to become effective advocates for Māori health in their respective areas of practice.

Learning outcomes 

At the end of the course students are expected to be able to:

  • Discuss the basic tenets of Māori health and the historical and contemporary determinants of Māori health and wellbeing.
  • Describe, in general terms, current Māori health status and Māori: non-Māori inequalities in health.
  • Explain how health inequalities between Māori and non-Māori have been created and are maintained.
  • Critique prevalent discourses and representations of Māori health and inequalities.
  • Define racism and privilege, and explain how they contribute to health inequities in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
  • Critically assess health policy, research, services, programmes and interventions in terms of their capacity to improve Māori health and reduce health inequalities.
  • Provide arguments to support the prioritisation of Māori health in his or her area of practice, drawing on indigenous rights and the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • Critically reflect on his or her own personal and or professional role and practice with regard to Māori health and inequalities.
  • Apply the principles introduced in the course relating to health promotion, policy, research, health services planning and delivery to improve Māori health and reduce health inequalities.

Content outline 

The course runs over the second semester and the formal teaching is conducted in 4 x 1 day blocks as follows:

Day 1: Māori worldviews and historical contexts of Māori health 

The course begins with whakawhanaungatanga (introductions/getting to know each other). An overview of Māori values, concepts, worldviews and society will then be presented. The next teaching session focuses on how colonisation has played out in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland). Understanding the historical contexts for Māori social and economic development – and underdevelopment – can aid contemporary appreciation for Māori health issues. We will present a case study that illustrates how historical events and processes have impacted on Ngāti Whātua and consider their effects on contemporary health status and inequities. The session explores the ways in which colonisation continues to affect Māori, resulting in inequitable distribution of the social determinants of health. We also consider the future, including the role of Treaty settlements in advancing Māori health and reducing inequities. Following these morning sessions, the concept of positionality will be introduced and explored within health contexts and then an overview of the course and summary of the day will be provided.

Day 2: Understanding inequities 

Day 2 focuses on the construction of health status, equity and inequity. It considers definitions of equity and inequity in health and draws on national and international evidence from theory to practice. We examine current Māori and other indigenous health status and ethnic inequalities in health. In addition, we examine different models and frameworks used to conceptualise and address Māori health and ethnic inequalities in health. The session involves comparing and contrasting different approaches and examining how they may be employed to understand and improve Māori health.

Day 3: Discourse, racism and privilege 

In the morning sessions we examine how Māori are represented in contemporary discourses, and how these representations influence Māori health outcomes. The emphasis will be on critiquing common discourses and offering alternative explanations and representations. We then discuss racism in its various forms and consider how it contributes to inequalities between Māori and non-Māori in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This is examined alongside the concept of privilege and its role in shaping societal systems, structures, processes and services to reinforce inequalities (including health inequalities).

Our afternoon sessions will examine principles guiding public health action with a view to improving Māori health and reduce inequalities. These principles can be applied in a range of domains of public health practice, including policy, health promotion, research, health sector management and health service delivery. Popular discourse often leads to Māori being considered as one of a number of ethnic minority groups and Māori health being conceptualised in terms of ‘needs’. This session positions Māori as tangata whenua (the indigenous population) and seeks to identify approaches to improving Māori health from a rights-based perspective. Drawing on Kaupapa Māori theory and principles, we examine how public health practice needs to be reoriented to bring Māori from the margins to the centre.

Day 4: Becoming an agent of change in Māori health 

In this final teaching day we focus on developing a critical consciousness in relation to our professional roles. Much activity in the health sector has tended to maintain or even increase the disparities between Māori and non-Māori, and it is important that we develop an inequalities lens to avoid perpetuating this status quo. As part of this teaching day we encourage you to ‘put yourself in the picture’, in order to better understand your role in Māori health development. We also consider approaches and tools to facilitate career-long learning and professional development in Māori health and cultural safety. During the final sessions of the day we will provide a review of the course and examine key approaches to reducing inequalities between Māori and non-Māori. Drawing on students’ reflections on learning, we will consider how each of us can contribute to Māori health development. The session also includes an exam overview and opportunity for students to provide feedback on the course. 


This may be taken towards a general health scieces or public health programme and is is a core course for:

Learning and teaching

Teaching methods include lectures, interactive discussions and small group work. A number of guest lecturers are involved throughout the course. The expected class size is 35-70.

Learning resources 

A course outline is given to each student enrolling two weeks in advance of their first day of class. A library course page will also be available with links to all course resources. 


  • Discussion/research/reflection: Contributions to online forum throughout course 60%
  • Examination: Two hours, requires students to integrate concepts learnt during the course 40% 

Course Coordinator

Course Administrator