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Poor Families, Poor Health

Poor Families, Poor Health

Monday 25 Nov 2002 Dr Muriel Newman Press Releases -- Social Welfare

A recent study highlighting the long-term health outcomes for children raised in low socio-economic families should set Government alarm bells ringing, ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"The report - Association between children's experience of socio-economic disadvantage and adult health: a life-course study - shows that poorer children are more likely than their counterparts to suffer ill health in later life.

"Published in the medical journal `The Lancet', the study followed 1,000 children born in 1972-73 and analysed their health outcomes at age 26. It found that children who grew up in poor families, as adults, had poorer cardiovascular health, dental health and mental health outcomes than children from higher socio-economic status families.

"This report comes hard on the heals of a study carried out by the social policy unit of the Ministry of Social Development - Children in poor families: does the source of family income change the picture? - which showed that outcomes for children in poor families were much worse if the family income was from a benefit rather than from work.

"In light of the fact that benefit numbers have increased ten-fold since 1972-73, from 40,000 to around 400,000 today, and that few of the study's children were in families dependent on welfare, with some 300,000 children now living in benefit-led households, the future pressure on our health system looks set to skyrocket. Not only that, but the present government's expansion of the welfare system will condemn generations of children to a lifetime of even poorer health outcomes than the research study found.

"If the Government really cared about the future of families and children in New Zealand, they would follow the lead of most other western countries and make welfare reform a national priority. As well, they would introduce policies to generate jobs, growth and a rising standard of living, so that working families and their children could look forward to a future of opportunity, prosperity and good health", Dr Newman said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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