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Longterm costs to health system of child poverty

Long term costs to the health system of child poverty

The government decision to exclude New Zealand’s poorest children from the 2004 budget package will have serious and long term costs to the health and social welfare systems, according to the Public Health Association.

The Public Health Association is disturbed the new Child Poverty Action report Cut Price Kids shows 175,000 of the country’s poorest children will receive minimal help from the Working for Families budget. Spokesperson Dr Judy Reinken says the budget package helped many working families but public health workers and researchers remain concerned about the numbers of children who risk remaining living in poverty.

“These children did not choose to be living in poverty but their living conditions mean they are at higher risk of disease and hospitalisation from serious infectious diseases such as meningococcal disease and pneumonia.”

Dr Reinken says New Zealand’s health system is becoming overburdened with preventable third-world type illnesses and government needs to address the underlying causes of this upsurge in preventable disease.

“Excluding children of beneficiaries from the benefits of the budget is likely to create cycles of deprivation and an underclass. These children risk developing long term health problems which will be a cost to both the health and social welfare systems.”

The latest Ministry of Social Development report notes a significant increase in the number of beneficiaries with mental health problems, Dr Reinken says. She points out children living in these families have an additional risk of developing mental illness and the effects of poverty heighten these risks.

The PHA is calling for the government to assess all policies for their impact on health especially children’s health. Dr Reinken says there is also a need for a clear government strategy on reducing child poverty.

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