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Challenges for Pacific Child and Youth Health


Press Release: The Department of Pacific Health at the University of Auckland and the New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service


New Report Highlights Significant Challenges for Pacific Child and Youth Health if New Zealand’s Current Economic Downturn Persists

On Friday the 5th of December, the School of Population Health will Welcome Dr Teuila Percival as incoming Head of Pacific Health.

At Teuila’s welcome a new report will also be launched: The Health of Pacific Children and Young People in New Zealand.

This report highlights significant challenges for Pacific Child and Youth Health, which are likely to be of even more concern, if New Zealand’s current economic downturn persists into next year.

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Main Findings of The Health of Pacific Children and Young People in New Zealand

This new report suggests that while some improvements have occurred in recent years, overall Pacific children and young people in New Zealand still experience disproportionately poorer health outcomes than their peers. In addition, with Pacific children and young people disproportionately living in more socioeconomically deprived areas, they remain particularly vulnerable, should New Zealand’s forecast economic downturn persist for any period of time.

Basic Facts About the Report

This report is an independent report by the New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, produced as a result of a contract with the Ministry of Health. It utilises the same framework as the NZ Child and Youth Health Indicator Handbook released in 2007 (available at http://www.paediatrics.org.nz/), but focuses specifically on the health needs of Pacific children and young people living in New Zealand.

This is also the first report on the health of Pacific children and young people in New Zealand to review health outcomes by Pacific Island group (e.g. Samoan, Tongan, Niue), allowing for a more detailed analysis of the health profiles of different Pacific groups in New Zealand.

Some Positive Findings From the Report

During 1999-2006, daily smoking rates for Pacific Year 10 students declined, with rates for girls falling from 23.0% in 1999 to 13.0% in 2006 and rates for boys falling from 16.6% in 1999 to 8.5% in 2006 (Page 151).

The proportion of Pacific students leaving school without a formal qualification has declined from 27.4% in 1998 to 12.2% in 2006 (Page 83-84).

Hospital admissions for some conditions which increased rapidly during the 1990s, have in the past 3-4 years begun to plateau (e.g. Serious Skin infections (Page 276), Bronchiolitis in Infants (Page 301)).

Concerning Findings of this Report

Pacific children and young people disproportionately live in more socioeconomically deprived areas (in 2006 >40% of Pacific babies were born into NZ Deprivation Index Decile 10 areas (i.e. the 10% most socioeconomically deprived areas in New Zealand (Page 49-50)).

Hospital admissions for many conditions remain many times higher for Pacific children and young people than for other ethnic groups (e.g. compared to European children, Pacific children have 4.5x higher admission rates for serious skin infections (page 275), 5.1x higher admission rates for pneumonia (Page 311) and 3.1x higher admission rates for asthma (Page 321)).

These findings have occurred in the context of historically very low unemployment rates and the longest period of economic growth New Zealand has seen in many years.

Key Messages

After a period during the 1990s when hospital admissions for many conditions increased rapidly, rates during the past 3-4 years have plateaued, with Pacific children and young people even experiencing improvements for some outcomes.

While it remains unclear why these improvements should have occurred during the past 3-4 years, it is likely that a number of factors contributed (e.g. low unemployment, reductions in the number of children living below the poverty line, changes in access to primary care).

The fact that Pacific children and young people are disproportionately growing up in more socioeconomically deprived areas, and the fact that socioeconomic factors (e.g. housing, income, access to primary health care) have a significant impact on health and wellbeing, potentially suggests that if New Zealand’s current economic downturn persists for any period of time, Pacific children and young people (as well as children in more difficult economic circumstances generally), are likely to be particularly vulnerable to worsening health outcomes, with the gains we have just begun to see in recent years potentially being eroded.

The challenge posed by this report is thus: How do we as a country respond, to ensure that if the current economic downturn should persist for any period of time, that the most vulnerable in our society, our children and young people, are protected from its more negative consequences.


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On the day of the launch the report will also be available on the Paediatric Society of New Zealand’s website http://www.paediatrics.org.nz/ Please note a strict media embargo applies which runs until 4pm on Friday the 5th of December.


ENDS

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