Taranaki DHB and NPDC collaborate to improve health
July 27, 2018
Taranaki DHB and NPDC collaborate to improve community health.
Taranaki DHB’s Public Health Unit (PHU) will work closely with the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) over the next few months to improve the health of the community, starting with more drinking water fountains in public areas.
A recent PHU study, conducted by Health Science graduate Tayla Hesseltine, showed a considerable lack of accessible free water in parks, playgrounds and major walkways in the region. Only one in five (19.3%) public playgrounds in Taranaki has a drinking water fountain.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Jonathan Jarman believes the installation of more public water fountains could help with a number of child health issues that Taranaki faces, including childhood obesity and dental decay.
“Taranaki is the second most affected region in New Zealand for childhood obesity – almost 20 per cent, or 4,500 children. Nationally, an estimated 99,000 children are affected. We also have a large number of young children under the age of five who need general anaesthetic for tooth extractions due to tooth decay, and this is costing our DHB over $200,000 per year,” he says.
The Ministry of Health recommends that plain water should be the beverage of choice for children and adults. Dr Jarman says: “If we had more drinking water fountains where children could access free plain water it may stop them from turning to cheap sugary drinks when they are being active outside.”
NPDC Infrastructure Manager, David Langford, says the study highlights the need for NPDC and PHU to work together for improved community health. “As part of our regular operations NPDC ensures that all current drinking water fountains are checked, cleaned and functioning properly,” he says.
The study also discussed that climate change would likely bring hotter summers. New Zealand had the hottest summer on record over 2017 and 2018.
Dr Jarman says: “The installation of more drinking water fountains in public areas makes a lot of sense as summer temperatures increase. It is much better if children can have free water from a tap rather than carrying around plastic bottles full of sugar.”
Mr Langford agrees and says NPDC is now working with the PHU to identify the best locations for new drinking water fountains to be installed. The first two are planned to be installed at Ngamotu Domain and Kawaroa Playground ahead of this summer.
“NPDC’s Parks department will work on installing more drinking water fountains at a cost of about $6,500 each. The goal is to work with the PHU to ensure the healthy choice is the easy choice.
In the longer term NPDC will look at a joint project with the Public Health Unit asking children what they want and where they would like drinking water fountains,” he says.