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Child health issues in Wairarapa

28 January 2004

Media Release

Child health issues in Wairarapa

A booklet which raises awareness of child health and safety issues facing the Wairarapa region will be useful in helping the community and other key players understand and deal with child health issues, the Ministry of Health said today.

The Wairarapa District Health Board's booklet Our Children - Their Health highlights some of the innovative approaches being taken in the Wairarapa to deal with some of the alarming child health statistics in the region. It also provides the community with information on services available to support the health and well-being of Wairarapa children.

This is a good example of a region proactively addressing issues that have been of real concern for anumber of years.

"While the statistics in Wairarapa are of particular concern, issues such as injuries, teen pregnancy, immunisation, and obesity are the key ones affecting children and young people nationwide. It's a really important first step the DHB has taken by trying to work with the community to publicly acknowledge the issues and alert the community to the services that can help," says Chief Advisor Child Health Dr Pat Tuohy.

Dr Tuohy says the Government supports a number of initiatives targeting child health issues, but improving our children's wellbeing requires community-wide effort.

"Health professionals, education, and social service agencies can spread the right messages and provide support, but it's also important that the community is aware of what help is available, and that parents do their best for their children," says Dr Tuohy.

"Healthy children grow into healthy adults. If we can addresss these issues in childhood, we would expect to reduce their longer term effects."

Dr Tuohy says the Ministry is currently in the process of completing a Child Health Toolkit for DHBs to assist them in planning child and youth services. As monitoring indicated, these child and youth services are the very issues Wairarapa has identified.

A key initiative currently operating around the country, including in Masterton, is the Family Start service. The service is an inter-departmental initiative, and involves whanau workers providing at-risk families with extra help and support, such as getting children to dental services, encouraging safety in the home, and ensuring families are accessing benefits they are entitled to. It also provides a vital link to other social services.

"Family Start in Masterton has formed a collective of maori health providers which has seen social services, health services and education services actively collaborating, not just talking about making changes for the better," says manager of Family Start Masterton, Piri Te Tau.

Dr Pat Tuohy adds "It is great news that Martinborough School is about to become the Wairarapa's first Health Promoting School (HPS). This is a nationwide programme, supported by the Ministry, which creates a supportive learning environment for children where the school, parents, and the community are encouraged to work collaboratively to promote better health and wellbeing for the kids."

He says the Wairarapa region should also benefit from its new Primary Health Organisation (PHO) which opened this month, and will bring lower-cost doctor visits for children in the area.

"While there are some serious child health issues facing the Wairarapa, it is appropriate that the DHB and the community are taking action to educate and promote better wellbeing for children," says Dr Tuohy.

ENDS

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