Māori health advocate Sir Mason Durie has challenged Taranki community leaders to resist the proliferation of alcohol and fast food outlets in the region.
Sir Mason gave the wero, or challenge, yesterday speaking at the Taranaki Base Hospital about the Government's Māori health strategy, Pae Ora.
He told a crowded lecture theatre that 80 percent of the factors affecting Māori health were outside the control of district health boards and required the intervention of the wider community.
"See housing, is that a health responsibility? Well obviously they're interested because we know housing is critical to good health but the health sector can't take responsibility for good housing."
Sir Mason said great progress had been made in Māori health over the past 30 years, but it was time to take the next step.
"We know quite a lot about how to treat illnesses and to treat problems and injuries, but what we haven't demonstrated is an ability to work at the preventative end."
Sir Mason said most of those preventative strategies would not come from the health sector because they relate more to the environments Māori lived in or the Wai Ora which is one of the three pillars of the Pae Ora strategy.
"It would be good for a community like this to have a strong voice on environmental pollution, particularly with rivers and air," he said.
"It would good for a community to be able to make some comment on the number of alcohol outlets that a city like New Plymouth or town like Hawera might have so that it is safe for their communities because we know now that they are the determinants of some of our greatest health problems."
He said policies should be developed to establish targets for home insulation, health and financial literacy and swimmable rivers.
The Ministry of Health's Pae Ora strategy has three pillars: Mauri Ora about the flourishing of the individual, Whānau Ora about healthy family and a whānau approach to problem solving and Wai Ora which concerns the natural and man-made environment.
"This discussion has been very much about Wai Ora, which is the environmental component of Pae Ora, because when you discuss the environmental aspects of health you are moving away from health services," Sir Mason said.
"And this group, that is here today, are able to collectively address many of the many of the issues there. Individually they can't, but collectively there's a good chance of being able to do that."
Sir Mason said his presentation was designed to gauge community interest in adopting a collaborative approach and to spark community leaders into action.
He challenged the community leaders to establish a working party to identify specific health targets for Taranaki and then to hand over the leadership role to local iwi.
The new body which Sir Mason provisionally called, Health Taranaki, should aim to be ready promote region-wide "safe policies" by 2020.