Maori health comes under the spotlight over the next three days when Wanganui hosts the third biennial Tu Kaha 2012 Maori Health Development conference.
A Central Region district health boards initiative, the conference officially opens this morning and runs until Friday afternoon.
Gilbert Taurua, director of Maori health at the Whanganui District Health Board, is helping co-ordinate the conference and said about 350 people had registered.
Mr Taurua said the goal was to create an opportunity for the Maori health network to come together to learn, discuss, work together and plan for Maori health development in the central region.
He said the conference had taken 18 months to finalise and followed similar events in Palmerston North then Wairarapa.
He said while it was being co-ordinated by the central region DHBs, it had generated national interest.
Mr Taurua said the event had a strong workforce development emphasis and 60 Year 13 students across the region had also been invited.
"These kids have been hand-picked because they have expressed an interest in a career in health, so there has been a programme organised for them."
Also in the line-up of guests is a group from the USA, and two of them are keynote speakers.
Dr Eduardo Duran has been instrumental at integrating ancient traditional approaches with modern Western strategies in an effort to make healing relevant to native people.
Mr Taurua said a description of the theme of the conference would be diversity and unity with a strong workforce focus.
"Sometimes conferences can be above a lot of heads but this one will be a great opportunity for those at the coalface," he said. He expected Whanau Ora to be a strong topic of conversation over the next three days.
Today: Showcasing successful innovation in the region and areas where collaboration has been taken to another level. There will be some discussion and debate.
Tomorrow: Will focus on Maori health development and, in particular, workforce development. Workforce remains the health sector's greatest challenge.
Friday: Policy makers will outline what the government's future focus will be and the opportunities and challenges this will create, particularly on Whanau Ora matters.