Sociocultural Foundations of Health: Traditions of Support and Community

When it comes to health, Indigenous peoples always emphasize the importance of sociocultural aspects that ensure holistic well-being. For Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the concept of health is closely linked to traditions of support and community. In this article we will explore how sociocultural aspects play a role in supporting health and wellbeing in Māori culture.

Whānau: the foundation of family ties

Family values play a fundamental role in Māori culture. The concept of whānau epitomizes the notion of family, which includes not only biological relatives but also an extended community and friends. This extended support network serves as a pillar in various aspects of life, including health.

Community and mutual support

In Māori culture, neighbors and community play an important role in health. The concept of ‘manaakitanga’ represents hospitality, caring and respect for others. People believe that attention to the well-being of others leads to the promotion of one’s own mental health.

Traditional practices and rituals

Māori maintain rituals and traditions that promote spiritual and physical health. An example is “hongi”, a nose-to-nose greeting that strengthens social ties and spiritual well-being. Traditional songs and dances also serve as a way of maintaining health.

The role of elders and sages

Elders (‘kaumātua’) and sages (‘tohunga’) have a special place in Māori society. Their wisdom, knowledge and experience are valued as treasure. Elders advise and guide, maintaining harmony in the community and spreading health traditions.

Learning and inheritance

The preservation of health traditions is passed from generation to generation. Younger generations learn from elders and sages on how to keep their physical and spiritual lives in balance. This learning includes healing practices, recipes for traditional medicines, and an understanding of the spiritual aspects of health.

Sociocultural aspects play an important role in traditional Māori health care. Supporting family, community and spiritual wellbeing is deeply meaningful and contributes to maintaining harmony in life. Preserving and respecting these traditions enables Māori to not only take care of their health but also to enhance their cultural heritage.

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