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National DHBs Join Waikato In B4 School Checks

Media information
For immediate release

Date: September 9, 2008

National DHBs Join Waikato In Launching B4 School Checks

Other district health boards have joined Waikato in offering B4 School Checks to four-year-olds this month.

Waikato opted to be one of the initial DHBs to lead out the programme, as Waikato Primary Health Organisation already had a similar system in place.

Along with Nelson, Marlborough, Mid Central and Lakes, Waikato has been preparing to offer the health and development checks, since June.

It is projected that Waikato will carry out 900 checks under the national programme, by the end of November.

Health Waikato's vision-hearing technicians team are carrying out all vision and hearing tests, while the Waikato PHO holds the contract to co-ordinate all other health checks for eligible children.

As it gets underway, parents and caregivers of children turning four years old will receive an invitation from the 'B4 School' team for their child to attend a check at their medical centre.

Where required, public health nurses will carry out follow-up checks for children who did not attend their medical centre invitation; however are not the first port of call.

Waikato DHB Rural and Community Services manager Jill Dibble, said the checks aim to identify and address health, behavioural, social, or developmental concerns which could affect a child's ability to learn, such as a hearing problem or communication difficulty.

"Finding problems early will help a whole new generation of learners to get the best possible start at school and better support them as they adjust to their new life as school pupils.

"The checks include vision and hearing, teeth and gums, height and weight. It gives parents a chance to discuss their child's health and development with a registered nurse."

The vision and hearing checks are carried out in a number of settings in the Waikato DHB region, including kohanga and early childcare centres.

Mrs Dibble said parents and caregivers of children turning four in the Waikato do not need to do anything.

"They will receive an invitation from their local general practice for their child to attend a check at the medical centre," she said.

"Those who do not attend these for whatever reason will be followed up by Community Services staff."

The process includes questionnaires that cover speech, physical and behavioural development, including emotional and social strengths and difficulties.

Mrs Dibble said most children would not need further assistance.

"But if any concerns are identified, action can usually be taken early and the nurse can refer the child to appropriate services."

Referrals could be made to a nurse, a doctor or specialist, such as a paediatrician or speech-language therapist, the dental service, or someone who can help with behavioural problems.

The assessment includes:

* immunisation (if required) where possible
* hearing and vision screening
* an oral health assessment
* behavioural/developmental screening
* where required, referrals to appropriate health, education or social services and follow up
* health promotion and education; and
* height and weight management

For more information, parents can call the free 24-hour health advice service Healthline (0800 611 116), which includes a Well Child line that provides parenting advice and health education information.


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