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Budget lacks clear direction on housing and health

Budget lacks clear direction on housing and health

Budget announcements on health and housing are a step in the right direction but lack a clear direction for improving the wellbeing of disadvantaged New Zealand children, according to the Public Health Association.

The PHA has welcomed moves to cut doctors fees for under-18s accessing Primary Care Organisations but points out a significant number of disadvantaged young people will miss out on this funding.

PHA Director Dr Gay Keating also welcomes $260 million in new housing initiatives but says the government needs to consider additional initiatives such as state-backed home lows to low income families to allow them to own their own homes and reduce state house waiting lists.

Dr Keating says links between poor quality housing and poor health and educational outcomes are well known.

"Epidemics of infectious diseases like meningococcal disease are more common when people live, work or play in overcrowded housing."

Urgent government action on housing is needed, especially at a time when house prices and rents are rapidly increasing, Dr Keating says.

"A failure to use this budget break the cycles of disadvantage will cost this country in the future through increased health and social welfare costs. What may appear prudent in 2003 may turn out to be an expensive mistake in ten years."

Moves to adjust the thresholds for Family Support payments, Child and Parental Tax Credits by 1.78 percent in line with the Consumer Price Index are welcome but Dr Keating says government should commit to making this adjustment every year.

The PHA has also welcomed the government education campaign to deter physical punishment that can lead to child abuse. Dr Keating says the Public Health Association supports changing the law to outlaw physical punishment as one way of reducing New Zealand's rate of death and injury from child abuse.

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