Concerning trends in NZ Children's Social Health Monitor Report 2010

Monday 13 December 2010, 3:51PM
By Te Tuia Well Child

Te Tuia Well Child supports today’s release of The New Zealand Children’s Social Health Monitor 2010 update.

In New Zealand today, children are more likely than any other age group in our society to live in poverty and suffer the consequences. 

There is a well recognised link between poverty and poor health outcomes for children.  The last two years have seen rises in unemployment, with rates currently around 6.4percent, and more children reliant on benefit recipients.  As of April 2010 around 243,000 children were benefit-reliant, an increase of nearly 33,000 or around 15 percent.

Hospital admissions for medical conditions that occur more frequently in children living in poverty have increased over the past two years, particularly for Maori and Pacific children.

Families whose main source of income is a Government benefit are more likely to be living in severe or significant hardship.  As a consequence these families are more likely to: buy cheaper cuts of meat; go without fruit and vegetables; put up with feeling cold to save on heating costs; make do with cramped housing; have children share a bed; postpone a child’s visit to the doctor or dentist; go without a computer or internet access, and limit their child’s involvement in school trips, sports and extracurricular activities.

Economic recessions have affected children’s health in other countries.  However, this report also notes the experience of Sweden in the 1990s where, despite a significant rise in children living in low income families, there were no significant increases in childhood hospitalisations for poverty-related illnesses. The authors concluded that the “maintenance of investments in education, social insurance, and universal access to free health care may have mitigated the impacts of the recession on children during this period”.

Today’s report highlights not only the increasing burden placed upon families below the poverty line, but also reinforces the need to find effective strategies that will assist them, even within the current limits of financial expenditure. 
Te Tuia Well Child is a consortium of academics and service deliverers interested in child outcomes. Current membership consists of four Universities and includes the:

University of Auckland 
 • Immunisation Advisory Centre 
 • Maori SIDS   
 • Taha (Well Pacific Mother and Infant Service)  
 • Department of Paediatrics  
 • Growing up in New Zealand 
 • School of Nursing

University of Otago  
 • NZ Child and Youth Epidemiology Service

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) 
 • Institute of Public Policy

Massey University 
 • School of Public Health