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CPAG calls for free dental and health care for all young people under 18 years

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is calling for free healthcare, including dentistry, prescriptions and specialist hearing and vision care for all children and adolescents under 18 years of age, in a submission to the New Zealand Health and Disability System Review, released today.

In the group’s submission, CPAG says universal healthcare for children should start before they are born, including having free doctor’s (GP) visits and pregnancy-related dental care provided for expectant mothers.

CPAG is also calling for more school-based initiatives, including health and mental health services, social workers, school lunches and a ban on school soft drinks.

 “Research shows that adolescence is one of two periods that are critically important for social and physical development, the other being pre-conception to3 years of age,” says paediatrician and CPAG Health spokesperson Professor Innes Asher.

“So it is vital that all our teenagers can easily access appropriate and timely primary healthcare. Their health and futures should not have to rely on their families’ ability to afford healthcare, as is currently the case.”

Currently, children living in poverty are more likely to get sick, and more likely to die than other children. CPAG’s recommendations are designed to help achieve equity in health outcomes (not just equity in healthcare access) for all young people.

“Primary care and public health is where our focus needs to start. Significant longstanding underfunding in these areas is one reason that too many of our children are ending up hospitalised unnecessarily,” says CPAG health spokesperson and GP Dr Nikki Turner.

The submission also calls for ACC-equivalent support for children and parents with health conditions or disabilities not due to an accident, and culturally appropriate Māori and Pacific maternity services.

Currently “zero fees” GP visits are available to children aged 13 and under; and although maternity services are free for pregnant women, GP visits and pregnancy-related dental care is not. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease seen in children and a leading cause of hospital admissions for New Zealand children.

For more information please download CPAG’s submission here.