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Govt gets Bouquets and barbs over child health

Bouquets and barbs for Government over state of child health

While expressing confidence in the Government’s new well child health framework yesterday, Plunket also voiced its frustration over New Zealand’s current child health statistics and the funding of well child health.

Speaking at the Society’s annual general meeting in Wellington , Plunket’s New Zealand President Pam Murray said that years of work had resulted in a welcome acknowledgement by the Government that universal well child health services were crucial if New Zealand’s poor international ranking in infant mortality1 was to improve.

Pam Murray, said that despite that positive development and her confidence in the future of Plunket as a leader in well child health, she feels despondency and frustration over the current state of child health in New Zealand.

“International research supports home visiting as a solution to child health and well-being problems. Thirty years ago when home visiting was funded to be a priority, when each child received eight home visits in the first three months then monthly visits for the balance of the first year of life, we were in the top five OECD countries for child health standards. Now that each child is only entitled to eight visits in three years, the wellbeing of our children has plummeted and we are now near the bottom of the OECD tables.”

Pam Murray reflected on the often lonely nature of parenting today and the effects of the chopping and changing of health programmes by successive governments.

“Basic parentcraft does have to be taught. Parenting does not come naturally. With the fragmentation of families, prospective parents no longer have the opportunity to observe parenting skills of relatives, and friends and whanau.

“Plunket had excellent programmes in place which were working. Sadly, the succession of health care changes meant new overseas programmes have been introduced as quick-fix remedies by successive governments, and the solid, established programmes run by Plunket were compromised and sidelined as real funding to Plunket was decreased, said Pam Murray.

Plunket Society Chief Executive Paul Baigent expressed satisfaction that Plunket’s message had been heard. “Our advocacy of the need for a universal element in well child health, with additional services targeted to those in need, has finally been accepted by Government. The new well child health framework will ensure all children have access to well child services, a key strategic goal for Plunket.

“It is so much easier for families who need support to slip through the net if there is not universal access to services”, said Mr Baigent.

But the bouquet was tempered by a barb relating to funding and resourcing of the new policy. “While the new Well Child Framework specifies that all children are entitled to eight free contacts with a well child provider, Plunket’s current funding allows only 5.8 visits,” said Mr Baigent.

Plunket provides well child health services to 87 percent of all New Zealand families with new babies, including 84 percent of Pacific babies. This represents over 500,000 contacts with infants and their families. Plunket also delivers services to 65% of all Maori babies born.


1 The latest OECD figures show New Zealand ranks 23rd our of 30 countries on infant mortality

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