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New health support service now running in Paritutu

1 July 2008 Media Statement

New health support service now running in Paritutu

A new health support service for people historically exposed to dioxin from the former Ivon Watkins Dow factory in Paritutu, New Plymouth became available today.

Associate Minister of Health Damien O’Connor said the service was designed to support people to maintain healthy lifestyles, and was developed through community consultation.

“The government acknowledges that there is sufficient evidence that some people living in these areas have potentially been exposed to harm,” said Mr O’Connor.

"While the degree of harm is highly uncertain; it is better to act now to provide additional help to those who may have been affected. Dioxin exposure is an area which attracts intense debate and there are many conflicting views on the human consequences. That debate is likely to continue but it should not prevent us from doing what we can to help now, based on what we know now.

"Most people are interested in their health today, and what they can do to help stay healthy in the future. We are taking a very broad approach to eligibility - it's not based on levels of historic exposure, but on the length of time a person spent in the specified areas.

“We have also extended the catchment area for eligible people to include the port. This is consistent with the precautionary, inclusive approach based on natural boundaries that was applied to residents and other workers. It reflects that the scientific evidence to support inclusion may change as the science changes. This option is responsive to the community’s concerns about the inclusion of port workers,” he said.

The service will provide a free annual check-up with a GP or practice nurse. Individuals may also be referred to other health services like smoking cessation, physical activity and nutrition support and primary mental health care. Doctors may also refer people for genetic counselling or serum dioxin testing.

The service will be available to eligible workers and residents who have moved elsewhere in the country by October.

Details on how people can apply to be part of the service are available on the Ministry of Health website www.moh.govt.nz or by phoning 0800 288 588.

ENDS

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