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UNICEF calls for NZ to meet child health goals

16 September 2003

UNICEF calls for New Zealand government to meet international goals on child health

The New Zealand government needs to act to meet its international obligations on child and youth health, according to a UNICEF report launched today.

The Unicef report Making New Zealand Fit for Children says the New Zealand government committed to developing a ten-year action plan on child health by the end of 2003, when it signed the United Nations declaration A World Fit for Children. However, the new UNICEF report looks at child health and finds policy is fragmented and there is no comprehensive co-ordinated plan to address the major causes of ill health in New Zealand children.

Report author Dr Amanda D'Souza says New Zealand must take significant steps to meet goals identified under the declaration. Dr D'Souza says New Zealand has a raft of government policies on the health and wellbeing of children but many of these are not implemented in a systematic and transparent way. She says UNICEF hopes the report, which includes wide-ranging recommendations, will help the government prioritise its child health goals.

"There are some good programmes but current government actions are not enough to address the major causes of ill-health and inequality for New Zealand children."

UNICEF is also concerned child health is not mentioned as a priority in many health policy documents, Dr D'Souza says.

Significant issues facing New Zealand include our infant mortality rates that are reducing but they haven't reduced as quickly as many other countries, and there are major differences by ethnic group, according to Dr D'Souza. It is very concerning that Maori and Pacific children at all ages are experiencing higher death rates and hospitalisation rates than other children. She points out significant numbers of New Zealand children are living in poverty, especially Maori and Pacific children, and this is related to a range of serious preventable diseases.

"New Zealand children have extraordinarily high rates of infectious diseases, including pneumonia, bronchiectasis, skin infections, meningococcal disease and rheumatic fever." These conditions can cause serious long-term damage to our children.

Another issue facing New Zealand is our high rate of child injury, with injury being the leading causing of death for children aged one to 17 years. New Zealand ranks third worst amongst OECD countries for child traffic-related injury causing death. Almost half injury deaths are traffic-related.

The report will be launched by the Associate Minister of Health Ruth Dyson on 16 September at the Loaves and Fishes Hall on Hill St. The launch will be followed by a seminar on child health.

When: 16 September 2003 Where: Loaves and Hall, Hill St, Wellington

When: 1-2pm

2pm Professor Diana Lennon (Professor Population Child and Youth Health, Auckland University) - Why are so many of our children sick?

2.30pm Dr Mavis Duncanson (University of Otago, Wellington) - Injury kills and maims too many children in Aotearoa New Zealand.

3pm Bridget Robson (Te Ropu Rangahau Hauora A Eru Pomare) - Tamariki Maori: Dispense with disparities

3.30pm Dr Alison Blaiklock (NGO representative at UN Special Session in New York, May 2002) - Keeping Our Promises

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