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Child Poverty Monitor: shocking poverty causing shocking diseases

Child Poverty Action Group spokesperson Professor Innes Asher says, “The country’s first Child Poverty Monitor shows shocking poverty causing shocking diseases in our children and this can change if we want it to".

 Child Poverty Action Group spokesperson Professor Innes Asher says, “The country’s first Child Poverty Monitor shows shocking poverty causing shocking diseases in our children and this can change if we want it to.”

The Monitor shows a steady rise in children’s hospital admissions for a group of diseases sensitive to living in poverty. These include asthma, pneumonia, rheumatic fever and serious skin infections.

This group of diseases has risen in New Zealand children of all ethnicities since the recession began in 2008. Pacifica and Maori children are hospitalised at far higher rates than other children with proportionately more Pacifica and Maori children hospitalised now for these diseases than there were a decade ago. These statistics reflect deepening poverty and worsening inequality.

“These shocking rates of hospital admission have their roots in profound disadvantage which disproportionately affects children, the most vulnerable among us,” says Professor Innes Asher. “New Zealanders are now much more aware of child poverty in New Zealand, and these statistics show its ghastly face – how sick our children are - with many harmed forever by preventable diseases. Long term damage of the heart or lungs from these diseases can cause death at a young age.”

“It is not just children and families who bear the cost of these illnesses through loss of health, education and work opportunities but society as a whole, as we are paying for the care of children who should not be sick as well as the lost productivity of their parents.” 

For children to stay healthy, families need enough money for nutritious food, facilities for cooking, laundry and personal hygiene. They need access to hot water, soap, clean towels, clothing, shoes, bedding and basic first aid. Money is also needed for adequate housing and doctors fees.

Professor Asher says, “Children in low income families suffer a triple jeopardy – income too low to sustain healthy living, sub-standard or overcrowded housing and having poor access to primary health care.”

“Bold actions across sectors (income, housing and health) are needed to make any progress.  These bold actions need a cross party consensus, as recommended by the recent Health Committee report. New Zealanders should demand this of the MPs who represent them.”

She says, “The Child Poverty Monitor pulls together what is already known into one comprehensive document that New Zealanders and ethical policy makers cannot ignore”.