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Why are taxpayers funding astrology-based health services?

22 JANUARY 2020

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is alarmed to learn that taxpayers are funding astrology-based health services, in the name of “traditional Māori healing”.

In a comment to Stuff, the Ministry of Health says it is encouraging its Healthy Families providers to incorporate ‘maramataka’ into their services. Maramataka is the traditional study of lunar cycles.

The Ministry explains: “The work of Healthy Families NZ is part of the growing movement to place indigenous knowledge and practices on an equal level with western epistemologies.

An example of this put into practice can be found on the Healthy Families website for Whanganui:

Healthy Families WRR are working with others in the community to bring back some of those practices that kept us connected and healthy.

One easy way that we can do this is by adjusting our activity levels according to the energy levels and pull of the moon. Everything has an ebb and a flow, including us, so by allowing ourselves to rest during the low energy phases and amping it up on the high energy phases we are placing ourselves in a position for optimum benefits.

A brief search reveals this belief system is also promoted by Healthy Families in Rotorua, Waitakere, and the Far North.

The Healthy Families programme costs taxpayers around $9 million a year, and also advocates herbal remedies, massage, and prayer.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “The ‘Healthy Families’ approach to Māori health is not just ineffective, but actively harmful. There’s a risk that ill families will see these traditional techniques as a substitute for scientifically-backed measures. Moreover, every health dollar that is spent on astrology is a dollar that cannot be invested in core services.”

“Community groups are welcome to preserve traditional beliefs and advocate for alternative medicine, but it is madness to include this in the taxpayer-funded health system.”

"This programme is blurring the line between healthcare and religion. It might be well-meaning, but it’s certainly not value for money for the taxpayer and should be scrapped immediately."


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