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Time for New Zealand to step up on health inequities

Time for New Zealand to step up on health inequities

25 October 2011

It’s time for New Zealand to become a leader in reducing health inequities, according to health organisations, but we must start with the here and now.

Ten health sector leaders are calling on the government to endorse the political declaration of a World Health Organization (WHO) Conference which concluded on 21 October 2011 in Rio de Janeiro. The conference called on WHO member states to take action worldwide on social determinants of health which include children’s early years, education, economic status, employment conditions, housing and effective health care systems.

Spokesperson for the group, Public Health Association National Executive Officer Dr Gay Keating, says New Zealand needs to play a leading role in this vital global effort, but it must first address the inequities existing within its own borders.

“Most children here can expect to live a long time, but our poor children die at a faster rate than every other OECD country except Mexico and Turkey. This is no wonder when more than 230,000 of our children and teens live in deprivation, struggling daily with ill health, damp and crowded living conditions and financial insecurity.

“New Zealand is no longer a great place in which to raise your children. We’re now only world leaders in unintended teen pregnancy and death from injuries and child abuse.”

The group says the declaration is very clear governments must make a quality health system that is accessible by everyone a high priority. Special attention must also be given to early childhood development in public policies and social health services.

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“A good start would be a visible cross-party agreement on a strategy for improving the environment in which children live,” Dr Keating says.

The declaration says countries must act on social determinants of health, not just because they are a moral and human rights imperative, but also because they are “indispensable to promote human wellbeing, peace, prosperity and sustainable development.”

Dr Keating says health inequities in New Zealand have steadily worsened over the last few decades and this is having a profound impact on our wellbeing, prosperity and development as a nation.

“We will all pay dearly for leaving so many children in unhealthy conditions and with such bleak economic futures. The poor are paying right now. The rest of us will pay later when so many, who could be supporting us in our old age, are themselves unwell and in need of assistance from the state.”


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