The Fonofale model of health

The Fonofale Model promotes a holistic view of health that symbolises the wholeness of a Pasifika person.

Created by Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann in 1984, the Fonofale Model is represented by a fale (house), and is made up of these key elements:

  • Falealuga – Roof
  • Pou – Posts
  • Fa'avae – Foundation
  • Cocoon.

Fonofale image showing the four key elements with the Falealuga (roof), Pou (posts) and Fa'ave (foundation) circled by the cocoon

These elements represent our overall wellbeing. Each is essential for building and maintaining good health and wellbeing, which is at its strongest when they are in balance.

While the Fonofale Model comes from a Samoan perspective, it links well to other Pasifika cultural perspectives.

The parts of the fale

Falealuga – Roof

The falealuga represents culture, values and beliefs, which are considered the shelter for life.

It recognises the evolving and adapting nature of culture. Some Pasifika people may uphold a traditional approach specific to their Pacific Island roots or identity. Others may adopt and practice western values and beliefs or embrace a combination of both.

Pou – The Posts

The fale structure is supported by four pou, which represent the fa’aleagaga (spiritual), fa’aletino (physical), mafaufau (mental) and isimea (other) aspects of  wellbeing.

The pou are all interconnected and continuously interact with each other and with the aiga (family) and falealuga (culture). This is integral to the health and wellbeing of Pasifika people.

  • Spiritual – This relates to the sense of wellbeing that stems from a belief system. This could include Christianity or traditional spirituality relating to nature, spirits, language, beliefs, ancestors and history, or a combination of both.
  • Physical – This dimension relates to biological or physical wellbeing.
  • Mental – This dimension relates to the wellbeing or the health of the mind, which involves thinking, emotions and the behaviours expressed.
  • Other – This dimension relates to things that can directly or indirectly affect health such as, but not limited to, gender, sexuality/sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status.

Fa’avae – Foundation

Fa’avae represents the values of aiga (family), which is the foundation for all Pacific Island cultures. Family includes immediate and extended family, and all the people you care about and connect with in life. Aiga forms the fundamental roots and centre of Pacific Island social structures and orientation.

It symbolises how Pasifika peoples are tied to their family, titles, home country, culture and language.

The Cocoon – Time, environment, context

Surrounding the fale is the cocoon. This represents your environment, time and context, all of which affect and shape who you are.

These elements can have direct or indirect influences on each other. The cocoon relates to the impact of a specific time on Pasifika people, their unique relationship to their physical environment, and socio-economic, political, legal or personal contexts that shapes an individuals experiences.

  • Time – This dimension relates to the actual or specific time in history that impacts on Pasifika people.
  • Environment – This dimension relates to the relationships and uniqueness of Pasifika people to their physical environment. The environment may be rural or an urban setting.
  • Context – This dimension relates to the where/how/what and the meaning it has for a person or people. It could be in relation to being island born or Aotearoa New Zealand raised. Other contexts include country of residence, legal, politics and socio-economics. All of which have influence on a person.


This information was adapted from Fonofale Model of Health by Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann.