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Government welcomes Health Select Committee report

Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health

6 March 2014

Government welcomes Health Select Committee report

Health Minister Tony Ryall has welcomed the Health Select Committee report on improving children’s health and the prevention of child abuse, noting the government is already investing heavily in almost all of the areas identified.

The committee made 130 recommendations focused on children’s health and wellbeing from preconception to three years of age. In its response tabled today, the government has accepted in full, or in part, 109 of the recommendations, and has noted 14.

“I’d like to acknowledge the significant contribution the committee has made through its two-year inquiry and report,” says Mr Ryall.

“Investment in early years has informed the policy development of social sector agencies for some time. Substantial progress has been made in many areas since the inquiry began in February 2012, and the government is committed to a range of child health and wellbeing initiatives.

“Considerable work is underway to ensure mums and their babies receive high quality maternity services. This includes the Maternity Quality and Safety initiative which is being implemented across the country to ensure mums and babies receive the same high standard of care no matter where they live.

“Increasing the number of mums-to-be enrolled with maternity services by 10 weeks gestation is also a priority area. We have six communities involved in maternity integration pilots starting around the country – one of the goals of the pilots is to find new ways to get high needs mums into maternity services sooner.

“The government is also investing $3.1 million to help mums and their families make better food choices for themselves and their babies.

“The new Healthy Families NZ initiative which will be introduced later this year will include community-led local health promotion activity to help families make healthier choices, and reduce risk factors for chronic disease, such as obesity.

“Immunisation rates are now at record levels with more babies protected from preventable diseases. Latest figures show 91 per cent of eight-month-old babies have received their vaccinations and good progress is being made towards reaching the Better Public Services target of 95 per cent by December this year.

“The Government has invested $45 million in tackling rheumatic fever. The programme includes initiatives such free school throat checking, raising awareness about this disease, improving housing conditions and free sore throat drop-in clinics in the community. Across the North Island, around 50,000 children can access throat checking services for free at their schools,” says Mr Ryall.

Seven recommendations in the report, such as mandatory addition of folic acid to bread and taxes on sugary drinks, will not be progressed.

“Along with other Government initiatives such as the Children’s Action Plan, this Government’s spending shows strong commitment to supporting children and families in New Zealand,” says Mr Ryall.

“Budget 2014 may also see the announcement of new initiatives which will address some of the report’s recommendations,” says Mr Ryall.

ENDS

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