Michelle Mako


I whānau mai i raro i ngā pae maunga a Tararua, ki te tahao te roto o Horowhenua, nō Taitoko ahau.

Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tūohu koe, me maunga teitei – Seek the treasure you value most dearly. If you bow your head, let it only be to a lofty mountain. 

Michelle Mako provides leadership and quality advice to support successful outcomes aimed at eliminating inequities in cancer outcomes. In her mahi, she ensures a clear focus on improving Māori health equity through public health and health promotion.

Originally trained as a cardiac nurse, Michelle Mako completed her Master of Public Health at Ōtākou Whakaihu Waka, the University of Otago and was the recipient of Vera Keefe-Ormsby Award in Māori Health Scholarship in 2009. Michelle has focused most of her career on public health and Māori health inequities.

Michelle is the Director Hauora Māori Tūmatanui at Te Pou Hauora Tūmatanui – the Public Health Agency. The Public Health Agency leads and strengthens public health, emphasising equity and the wider determinants of health such as income, education and housing.  Michelle leads a small team that contributes and provides advice and guidance across the PHA, wider Ministry, and public health sector with a focus on the potential impact on Pae Ora.

Michelle previously worked in Māori public health policy at the Ministry of Health for a number of years. During this time, Michelle led the implementation of the Kia Piki te Ora Taitamariki suicide prevention programme, including the establishment of six Māori community projects to provide support for rangatahi Māori towards the prevention of self-harm and suicide. She also contributed to a range of policies with a focus on Māori public health, including healthy eating, suicide prevention, and cancer control.  

In her 14 years working for the Health Promotion Agency, Michelle was the social marketing manager for Feeding Our Futures and worked in leadership and management roles in healthy eating and rheumatic fever and capability development, with a specific focus on Māori and Pacific health outcomes. She was seconded to the Health and Disability System Review, where she provided secretariat support to the Māori Expert Advisory group and contributed to the development of the Interim and Final Reports, which informed the 2022 health system reforms.

In a recent role as Equity Director of Te Aho o Te Kahu, the Cancer Control Agency, Michelle led the development of equity, Te Tiriti and engagement tools and approaches to ensure Māori cancer inequities are consistently considered and addressed in te development of strategic and operational policy and guidance for the health system.

In addition to her Lancet Oncology article Te Aho o Te Kahu: weaving equity into national-level cancer control, Michelle has contributed to a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals, including the impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment for Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand. The purpose of this article was to examine disparities in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to lung cancer diagnosis and access to clinical services between Māori and non-Māori.

Michelle has also presented on aspects of Māori public health and health equity at a number of international forums, including the International Union for Health Promotion (2019), the World Cancer Congress (2022), the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group Annual Scientific Meeting (2022) the Canadian Global Cancer Workshop (2023), and the Public Health Observatory NZ digital conference (2023).

Michelle is currently a Doctoral Candidate in School of Health Nursing and Midwifery at Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University. Her research, undertaken in partnership with Kōkiri Marae Health and Social Services, explores tikanga Māori approaches to increasing Māori women’s participation in cancer screening.


Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency

Michelle’s research – Public Data

Michelle’s scientific contributions

The impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment for Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand

He Rangatira Our Leaders

Tia Haira

Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tūhourangi, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangiteaorere

Tia Haira is a biomedical scientist specialising in chemical genetics, immunology, and biobanks within mātauranga Māori and western science systems.

Tuhakia Keepa

Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Ruanui

Tuhakia is committed to supporting initiatives engaged in developing Māori communities with a passion for health, building the workforce, and sharing the value of Te Ao Māori.

Hayden Wano

Te Ātiawa, Te Ātiawa, Taranaki, Taranaki, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Awa

Titiro! Titiro ki te maunga tiitoohia, Runga o Parihaka. Ko Ngaati Moeahu me Puketapu ngaa hapū.

Professor Papaarangi Reid

Te Rarawa, Te Rarawa

I believe Papaarangi would describe herself as a Te Rarawa public health physician, known for her work demanding Crown accountability for Māori Health Inequities.