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New report on the health of NZ's children, youth

Media Release

6 July 2006

Children’s Commissioner launches new report on the health of New Zealand’s children and young people

Today at the Public Health Association Conference in Palmerston North, Children’s Commissioner, Dr Cindy Kiro, launched a new report on health issues facing New Zealand children and young people.

Entitled, 'More than just an apple a day: Children’s right to good health”, the report is a review of child and youth strategic health documents and contains recommendations for future actions and direction.

“In order to identify priorities for action in child and youth health, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner contracted a review of child and youth health strategic documents published from 2000 to 2005. This review was undertaken by Auckland University of Technology,” said Dr Kiro.

“The review signaled that there are significant areas of concern in New Zealand regarding the extent to which our children enjoy their right to good health and health care. The main concerns are; evidence of poor health disparities that lead to systematic disadvantage for some groups of children and young people, and the inability to access appropriate and affordable health services.”

“The major finding is that there is has been inadequate action on the Child Health Strategy developed in 1998. It requires the whole health sector to respond to improve the status of children and young people. There are particular gaps, especially in adolescent health services for example sexual and mental health, and also in other areas such as with respiratory infections, that could make a big difference to health outcomes for children and young people and to avoidable hospitalisations.”

“District Health Boards, Primary Health Care Organisations and the Ministry of Health should see this as an opportunity to really improve what they deliver to children, who drop off the radar. Yet their needs, while not so crisis driven often, are subsumed and no less important. Children have developmental needs that if not met, escalate and may impede other significant developments. The Paedeatric Society has identified the need for significant improvements in their scorecard for all District Health Boards. I support this call.”

“It is good to see that there is substantial investment and interest by a number of Ministers with announcement of the Health Eating Health Action programme targeting childhood obesity, as well as the good initiatives around school ready checks co-ordinated between health and education.”

“Most importantly, it has taken eight years to get this effort and much, much more is needed for the wellbeing of children and young people in New Zealand.”

“I have made a number of recommendations in the report aimed at improving the health status of young New Zealanders and the mechanisms to facilitate this,” said Dr Kiro.

“It is important that there is greater co-operation and co-ordination of strategies and actions between Government Ministries, District Health Boards, Primary Health Care Organisations and other organisations whose work affects children’s health. A child and youth health impact assessment should be included as a part of all new policy development. I would like to see District Health Board and Primary Health Organisations develop and implement Child and Youth Health Strategies and Action Plans The views of children and youth should also be considered at all levels of the health care service including policy and planning.”

“There should be annual reporting on rates of avoidable child and youth hospitalisations and a full investigation wherever such rates fail to decline. Monitoring and annual reporting of immunisation rates, waiting times for surgery and other relevant measures of access to services including health services for children and young people should also be measured.”

“I recommend that there should be annual reporting nationally by District Health Boards, on health status of children and young people by ethnicity, socioeconomic status and age, with effective action to reduce persisting disparities. In order to address disparities, the Health and Disability Standards (Children and Young People) should be implemented across all health and disability service providers of services including children and young people.”

“Commitment of resources is urgently needed for investment in workforce development in child and youth health, with particular emphasis on mental health and sexual health professionals.”

“Action to enable every New Zealand child to enjoy their right to good health and health care will require commitment from the highest level, with an appropriate allocation of vote health, commitment of resources and personnel, recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce, and recognition of the real health challenges facing our children and youth.”

ENDS

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