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Prime Minister announces new child health measures

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister of New Zealand

Hon Annette King
Minister of Health

23 August 2005 Media Statement

Prime Minister announces new child health measures

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Health Minister Annette King today announced a number of new measures designed to give all young New Zealanders a healthy start in life.

The announcement was made during a visit to a West Auckland medical centre.

Helen Clark said the new measures build on extensive commitments the Government has already made to better health for young New Zealanders.

“During the next three years we will introduce free hearing tests for all newborn children, initiate a free School Ready check for all children before they start school, and increase the number of core Well Child checks for pre-school children from 6.5 visits for each child to eight visits,” Helen Clark said.

Annette King said the new measures complement existing Labour Government initiatives already offered by Well Child providers like Plunket and the Tamariki Ora providers, the roll-out of child health programmes through Primary Health Organisations, the meningococcal vaccine strategy and the development of the National Immunisation Register.

“All these initiatives are about keeping children healthy and getting ahead of sickness. They reflect the same principle as the Primary Health Care Strategy and the Cancer Control Strategy,” Annette King said.

Helen Clark said hearing impairments can affect children in a number of ways.

“It can delay development of speech, language and communication skills, and reduce academic and social achievement. The new screening programme is based on trials that have taken place around the country over several years. District Health Boards will decide on the best way to arrange the tests in their areas," Helen Clark said.

“The purpose of the School Ready check is to ensure children are checked for immunisations, vision and hearing before they start school. These checks, which will allow parents to discuss any health concerns they have early, can also be carried out by a variety of providers, including PHOs, public health nurses, Plunket and others.

"Currently all pre-school children are entitled to 6.5 core Well Child checks, with some getting more, depending on need. We intend increasing the number of core visits to eight to ensure we continue monitoring the health of all children as well as we can, and to provide parents with all the support we can,” Helen Clark said.

Helen Clark and Annette King said the three initiatives are expected to cost $13 million a year ($5 million for extra Well Child checks, and $4 million each for newborn hearing screening and School Ready checks) when fully implemented by the end of the next term of government.

ENDS

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