Heather McLeod Reports from New Zealand on Palliative Care and the Rongoa Maori

New ZealandNot long after Cancer Control New Zealand chose to explore palliative care a half-decade ago, they brought in Heather McLeod as an adviser. McLeod is an actuary by professional education and practice who developed a passion for integrative health and medicine and founded Integrated Healing in 1998. The CCNZ closed the palliative care initiative in August with the explanation that “its role was superseded by the progress made in improving cancer services for New Zealanders.”

This closure came after McLeod, as she noted in an email to the Global Integrator, helped produce “a series of working papers on the topic” for CCNZ. These are available via the CCNZ site. Notably, the reports appear to have little mention of these complementary and alternative therapies that many use in their “time of love” or “time of compassion” (from Te Wa Aroha, the Maori term). The chart on page 77 of this report found that just 8 of 21 locations “could” provide a “complementary therapist.” For comparison, 5 offer a dietician and 16 a “cultural officer.” McLeod shared that the current government does not appear to have much interest in integrative approaches.

Rongoa MaoriWhere McLeod sees activity with integrative care in New Zealand is around the traditional populations, via the “Rongoa Maori”—a term that encompasses “herbal medicine made from plants, physical techniques like massage, and spiritual healing.” It is described as “a wellbeing oriented practice,” and “a specialty based on a body of knowledge . . . that is applied in totality to bring about wholeness or interconnectedness of body, mind, emotion, spirituality, energy, society, culture, relationships, and environment. It is a way of being in the world and sharing the appropriate knowledge to help restore balance.”

McLeod notes that the attention is required due to “commitments to Māori under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi,” which is considered the founding document of New Zealand. Evidence of the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s work in this area is the 2014 Tikanga ā-Rongoā, a guide to “proving safe and quality rongoā care to tūroro [which] is paramount to the wellbeing of our communities.” The publication is described as “a collaborative journey with representatives from the rongoā sector that defines a benchmark of excellence to deliver safe and quality rongoā services.” The standards set are presented as voluntary. The report comes with 5 “toolkits” that help provide guidance to the text.

Comment: The prevalence of integrative approaches in New Zealand makes the attention to natural approaches surprisingly low. This is particularly so given the fact that an adviser to the project had McLeod’s own interests in integrative approaches. Meanwhile, while there is no direction connection between the 2 parts of this post—the closure of the palliative care initiative and the traditional except that McLeod coupled them in the e-note on integrative-related activities—anyone reading into the Tikanga a-Rongoa might wonder where the palliative care report would have gone had it guided by those principles of the 10% of the population that is Maori or Pacific Islander. Thanks for the update, Heather!

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