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Sick children need leadership on poverty

Sick children need leadership on poverty

A Child Poverty Action Group report released today says New Zealand can radically improve the problem of poor child health, if it chooses to address the causes which are rooted in poverty.

Child Poverty and Health is the first of a series of CPAG policy papers, called Our Children, Our Choice, which will be published in coming months with recommendations for policy change to alleviate child poverty.

"We tolerate a much higher level of poverty for children than for the rest of the population, which shows in their dreadful health statistics," said CPAG's Co-Convenor Janfrie Wakim. "It should not be accepted as normal that one in four New Zealand children are poor. We could reduce child poverty dramatically if we choose to, just as we have done for elderly people."

"New Zealand's investment in children is low by OECD standards," said Janfrie Wakim. "Investing more in our children's health and well-being right now will have major benefits for society in the long term."

In Child Poverty and Health, CPAG makes nine recommendations which would significantly improve the health outcomes of children in poverty. (Summary attached)

The report's primary recommendation is that the government develop a comprehensive plan to reduce child poverty with targets, measurable outcomes and regular reporting requirements.

Health spokesperson Professor Innes Asher said, "A good recent example of an effective child health initiative is the improvement in infant and childhood immunisation coverage. The government developed a plan with targets and measurable outcomes which are now being achieved. Similarly, New Zealand could adopt a strategic, planned approach with comprehensive policies to reduce child poverty, and commit to these with a cross party accord.

Poverty is a leading factor contributing to New Zealand's exceptionally high rates of preventable childhood illness, disease, disability and death in New Zealand. Childhood poverty also has long term effects leading to many adult illnesses such as heart disease, mental illness, dental problems and early death.

Professor Asher said, "We think of New Zealand as a fair society, yet the burden of ill-health falls disproportionately on the poorest children who have fewer resources than they need under current policies. If we shared resources more fairly and reduced child poverty, we would not only alleviate the suffering of sick children right now, but also reduce the long term burden of preventable ill-health on our society."

Child Poverty and Health is available to download at www.cpag.org.nz.


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