The development of successful, culturally appropriate models of health promotion is vital to fight inequalities and sustain the next generation of Indigenous people. In Aotearoa (New Zealand) PATU© is a rapidly expanding model of health and fitness education developed by Māori for Māori. In response to increasing Māori obesity and sedentary lifestyle, Levi Armstrong, an Eastern Institute of Technology Bachelor of Recreation and Sport graduate, created the PATU© initiative for Ngāti Kahungunu (Māori tribe) in the Hawke’s Bay area. A patu is a weapon used by Māori warriors to attack and hit their enemies and to protect their whānau (family). PATU© is a group exercise and health promotion initiative that attacks physical inactivity along with sedentary behaviours associated with obesity by weaving high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and healthy lifestyle education with te reo me ōna tikanga Māori (Māori language and traditions).
An evaluation of PATU©, funded by a Health Research Council Māori Health Development grant and the Hawke’s Bay Medical Research Foundation, used mixed methods to capture anthropometric data to quantify the effectiveness of PATU© and qualitative phenomenological data from PATU© participants through interviews.
The principal findings from this evaluation are that local Māori align themselves well with the PATU© model of promoting Māori health. While weight and fat loss were not acknowledged by participants as the main motivation for attending PATU©, quantitative findings indicate improved physical measures for most members. Individual case studies illustrate some of the dramatic and inspirational positive life transformations that occurred. The PATU© participants and trainers describe PATU as an urban marae (traditional meeting house) where a strong sense of belonging and whanaungatanga (connectedness) is created. This sense of belonging, where it is comfortable for Māori to be both challenged and vulnerable, is described as the critical success factor of the model. The findings from this evaluation have implications for health providers wanting to design and implement successful health promotion models for Māori and for Māori to be self-determining in the health and wellbeing of their communities.