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Advocate on child poverty honoured

Professor Innes Asher last night received the New Zealand Medical Association’s Chair’s Award for 2017, presented annually to recognise individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the health of New Zealand.

In presenting the award, NZMA Chair Dr Kate Baddock described Prof Asher as a global leader in paediatric research, who had made outstanding contributions in global asthma research. Professor of Paediatrics, head of the University of Auckland’s Department of Paediatrics: Child and Youth Health, and a respiratory paediatrician at Starship Child Health, Prof Asher is actively involved in teaching, research, clinical work and advocacy, and is also on the the management committee of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

“What has driven me to be an advocate for child poverty in New Zealand is every single child I see with a preventable disease, often causing them permanent harm and lasting effects throughout their adult life,” she said.

“We have 44,000 admissions to hospital each year for children under the age of 14 who have preventable diseases. Our rates are way higher than other OECD countries—and they are going up. The roots of these diseases lie in poverty, unhealthy housing and limited access to basic healthcare. CPAG was part of the successful advocacy to get free GP access for under 13 year olds. We will also be pushing for free access for 13-17 year-olds as we have the highest suicide rate in the OECD for 15-19 year-olds, who also have very high rates of these preventable diseases.

“We now have a Government that’s committed to reducing child poverty. We will be on their case to make sure that measures do come in. We need to see the action to see our children lifted out of these terrible living situations.”

Dr Wayne Miles and Dr Peter Chapman-Smith received NZMA Fellowships for their service to the NZMA at the ceremony, which also marked the opening of the NZMA’s new building on the Terrace in Wellington.

Minister of Health Hon Dr David Clark officiated at the opening, nearly 70 years after the ‘old’ NZMA House was opened by Rt Hon Peter Fraser, when he was Minister of Health. This building was closed after the 2011 Canterbury earthquake, and—behind the heritage façade of the old building—a new six-storey building has taken shape.

The NZMA’s national headquarters are on Levels five and six of the new building, La Cloche café on level one, with other floors in the process of being leased.

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