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Warm congratulations to Professor Innes Asher  

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is delighted to celebrate the hard work and dedication of Professor Innes Asher in her work toward ending child poverty.

Professor Asher, a committee member and health spokesperson for CPAG for 20 years, on Tuesday received the New Zealand Medical Association’s Chair’s Award for 2017, in recognition for her important work to raise awareness of poverty as a key cause for acute and chronic ill-health among children. Professor Asher is also a paediatrician, Chair of the Global Asthma Network and formerly the Head of the Department of Paediatrics at Auckland University. Last year she was appointed as a World Health Organisation Expert on Chronic Respiratory Diseases.

Upon receiving the award, Professor Asher paid tribute to her CPAG colleagues, who she said have the broad range of expertise needed to understand the context for poor health outcomes in children, and from whom she had learned a great deal.

Professor Asher said her driver for being an advocate for child poverty with CPAG was each sick child she sees with a preventable disease that may cause them permanent harm and lasting effects throughout their adult life.

“We have 44,000 admissions to hospital each year for children 0-14 who have potentially preventable diseases. Our rates are way higher than other OECD countries - and they are going up. The roots of these diseases lie in poverty, unhealthy housing and limited access to basic healthcare.”

CPAG has pushed for all children to be adequately housed in healthy homes, and has emphasised the link to mental and physical ill-health when they are not.

Innes’ work with her CPAG team has contributed to the successful advocacy to get free GP access and prescriptions for children under the age of 13.

The level of unmet need has decreased for these children since the fee-free scheme was introduced, but the disparity for children aged over 13 is glaringly obvious, as evidenced in the latest New Zealand Health Survey.

“CPAG will be pushing for free access for 13-17 year-olds as we have the highest suicide rate in the OECD for 15-19 year-olds, who also have very high rates of these preventable diseases,” says Professor Asher.

“We now have a Government that is committed to reducing child poverty. We will be on their case to make sure that the most effective measures are implemented. We need to see the action to see our children lifted out of these terrible living situations.”

CPAG is deeply grateful for the expertise and passion that Professor Asher brings to the organisation’s work.

“CPAG is thrilled with the NZMA acknowledgement of Professor Asher’s work and offers hearty congratulations for all her efforts, and outstanding use of her profound professional knowledge and experience to promote better conditions and policies for children in New Zealand,” says Janfrie Wakim, co-convenor for CPAG.

“Along with Professor Asher, CPAG’s team of dedicated and high calibre experts volunteer their personal time to this significant issue, working together to forge a much healthier, safer New Zealand for all children.”