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Improving child health outcomes and preventing child abuse

Inquiry into improving child health outcomes and preventing child abuse, with a focus from pre-conception until three years of age

A Health Committees report asks the Government to put more focus and investment into the very early years because the returns are far higher. The inquiry makes 12 major recommendations and 130 detailed recommendations to the Government, with timelines for implementation.

“We hope that our report and recommendations will inform debate and lead to early intervention policies that make a marked difference to improving children’s health outcomes and preventing child abuse”, says committee Chairperson Dr Paul Hutchison.

The committee heard estimates that over half of Vote Health is spent in the last few years of life. The committee advocates investing an equitable share in the very early years where there is clear evidence it is most effective.

“Such policy is not only backed by science, equity, and ethics, but also makes sound economic sense. It will result in more children leading healthy lives and progressing to meaningful jobs. Productivity will be increased, and money will be saved. An investment approach is a win for children and a win for New Zealand.” Dr Hutchison says.

Members of the committee recognise the profound importance of getting it right for children, which requires medium to long term policy changes starting from pre-conception.

Currently most New Zealand children do well but there are significant and alarming differences in parts of the country, which urgently need to be addressed, for example, in Counties Manukau less than 16 percent of pregnant women are booked in for assessment prior to 10 weeks gestation, 66 percent are overweight or obese, and high numbers have gestational diabetes. The committee recommends the establishment of a national health target requiring 90 percent of pregnant women to be booked in for assessment by 10 weeks gestation so that vital clinical and preventative care can take place. In Sweden it is estimated that 90 percent of women are booked in for their first pregnancy assessment by 8 weeks gestation.

It is of great significance that the committee came to a cross-party consensus on a range of challenging issues including: the economics of early intervention – informed by Nobel Laureate Robert Heckman, pre-conception care, sexual, and reproductive health, socioeconomic determinants of health and wellbeing, improving nutrition and reducing obesity and related non-communicable diseases, alcohol, tobacco, and drug harm, maternity care and post-birth monitoring, leadership, whole-of-government approach, and vulnerable children, immunisation, oral health, early childhood education, information sharing, and research on children.

The full text of the above report is available here.


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