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Reducing poverty will reduce respiratory disease

Media Release
Asthma Foundation

Embargoed until 5.00am 9 December 2013

Reducing poverty will reduce respiratory disease

Being sick with a respiratory condition is often not inevitable or ‘just bad luck’.  The link between poverty and respiratory disease is well established. With the first annual Child Poverty Monitor noting 265,000 Kiwi kids live in poverty, and increased hospital admissions for preventable diseases, action needs to be taken now to ensure that children with a respiratory condition get the start to life they deserve.

“New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world and asthma and wheeze tops the list of preventable hospital admissions in children,” said Professor Innes Asher, Head of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland and leader of the worldwide children's research study: The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), and the Global Asthma Network.  “The very high rates of hospital admissions for asthma and wheeze in children have their roots in poverty, inadequate housing and difficulty in accessing primary health care.”
“The health statistics in the Report support what we already know and should concern every New Zealander,” said Professor Asher.  “Maori and Pacific children have much higher rates for hospital admissions for preventable diseases than the remainder of New Zealand children and the rates are now proportionally higher than more than a decade ago.”
The 2013 Monitor shows that one in four Kiwi kids are growing up in income poverty and one in six are going without the basic essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables, a warm house, decent shoes and visits to the doctor.  
To illustrate how low incomes are, the recent census notes that the median income in New Zealand is only $28,500 – half have incomes below this .

Asthma Foundation chief executive Angela Francis believes that the time to take action is now.  

We are asking the Government to improve incomes for all low income families with children, to develop a housing strategy that will result in all children being well housed, and to improve access to primary health care for all New Zealanders.  “Some people may ask whether we can afford to do these things in tough economic times; the real question is, how can we not?”

ENDS

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