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Call for government direction on child poverty

Thursday, 4 September 2003

Call for government direction on child poverty

Less talk, more action. That's the message to the government from the Public Health Association following reports that schools are feeding malnourished pupils.

The association says it is disheartened to read reports that some schools in Christchurch are feeding pupils breakfast and lunch, as well as trying to deal with children suffering from recurring sores. Schools have commented that middle income, as well as poor families, are struggling to pay their bills, and that children's health is suffering.

PHA director Dr Gay Keating says the association is calling for a comprehensive government strategy on child health, starting with the basics of food, housing and income.

Investment in children's basic needs must be an immediate priority to avoid downstream costs in health, crime and lost productivity, Dr Keating says. She says the association is disappointed the government has not yet acted on its own research showing a third of New Zealand children are living in poverty.

"The PHA is becoming increasingly worried about the links between low income, poverty and infectious diseases."

Dr Keating says the government should also support a private member's bill to bring back a universal benefit for all children. She says government support for sending this bill through to the select committee stage would open debate about the health and welfare of children in this country.

ENDS

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