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Prevention and partnership key to child health

27 October 2003

Prevention and partnership key to better child health

Early intervention, prevention and community connection are all key to successful child health statistics in New Zealand, but will only work with sufficient funding, says Plunket chief executive Paul Baigent.

Addressing the organisation's annual general meeting in Wellington today, Mr Baigent and Plunket's New Zealand President, Kaye Crowther, both urged that more be done to support families in need in this country and to build stronger, community networks.

"We are not doing well enough for children in New Zealand. There is still too much family violence, insufficient pre-school education and worrying levels of child hospital admissions and mortalities," said Mr Baigent.

"While Plunket plays a leading role in building stronger families and communities, it cannot do it alone. Partnerships are the key to ensuring that every child has access to quality well child services," he said.

Mr Baigent acknowledged the work being done by the Ministry of Social Development to develop a Strategy for Families and welcomed the collaborative input of non-government organisations and government agencies.

"We at Plunket are very pleased to be part of the development team. We all firmly believe that this integrated, cross-sectoral, holistic approach is critical and we urge Government to adopt the Family Services Outcomes Framework and the Strategy for Families."

The increased level of funding for Plunket this year earned praise from Mr Baigent, who said the government contract for 2003/04 "represented a very significant milestone for well child health."

"We began the 21st century with a strategy to strengthen our leadership and advocacy for young children and their families. It is pleasing to see progress on those goals with the increased investment in well child health," he said.

Plunket's New Zealand President, Kaye Crowther, echoed Mr Baigent's comments, but warned against complacency, saying "much of the shift in thinking has been born out of horror at this country's ongoing litany of child abuse and neglect."

"The 2003 review of Child, Youth and Family found that the only way to halt the ever-increasing demand for its services and to better protect our children is to invest much more heavily in prevention and early intervention. Without a doubt, the place to start is the home," said Mrs Crowther.

In the past year, Plunket Nurses, Plunket Kaiawhina and Community Karitane made 235,000 home visits.

"Our staff were welcomed into people's homes because they are a crucial means of support providing advice for new parents on any of the issues that arise with young babies," she said.

Plunket's data shows that it had almost 480,000 face-to-face contacts with young children and their families during the year - 50,000 more contacts than the previous year. There was a significant increase in service to first-time parents and those in areas of high deprivation and a similar increase was achieved for Maori and Pacific clients.


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