Report: NZ 'one of the worst' developed countries to be a kid

Source: 1News

Kiwis should be "really ashamed" of the health outcomes of children in poverty, Cure Kids say.

The charity's 2021 State of Child Health in Aotearoa New Zealand report, released on Wednesday morning, found the rates of dental disease, respiratory conditions, skin infections and rheumatic fever remained too high among children in the country compared to other developed nations.

The report said these negative health outcomes disproportionately affected children who were from low socio-economic backgrounds, Pasifika or Māori.

Its findings prompted Children's Commissioner Frances Eivers to state in the report: "On many measures, New Zealand is currently one of the worst places in the developed world to be a child.

"Many of our mokopuna start accumulating health issues from their very first days, and by the time they are young adults they are carrying a heavy burden of disease.

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"The burden is not equally spread. Almost one-third of our mokopuna bear the brunt of health conditions, and therefore experience significant disadvantage, often along with social and economic deprivation, which is clearly shown to be associated with poor health," Eivers wrote.

READ MORE: John Campbell: How poverty ended up in the 'too hard' basket

According to the report, Pasifika children were admitted to hospital for rheumatic fever 140 times more, and Māori children 50 times more, than young people of other ethnicities.

The report also found rates of hospitalisations for children with serious dental decay had increased steadily since 2000, despite average rates of decay declining overall.

Data from 2019 revealed 41% of five-year-olds had evidence of tooth decay, that rates of tooth decay and hospitalisation were consistently the highest for Pasifika and Māori, and those living in the most deprived areas had three times the number of tooth extractions as those in the least deprived areas.

"Why does a kid who grows up in Remuera with a sore throat not go on to have rheumatic heart disease? Whereas a child less than 10 kilometres away who has a sore throat ends up with major heart problems?" Cure Kids CEO Frances Benge told Breakfast.

"We should be really ashamed of the statistics because we saw the country galvanise with Covid. I think that was because it affected everybody. But we've got a really small community that has been terribly affected by really old-fashioned diseases that shouldn't exist."

She said the report highlighted the need for collaborative and concentrated efforts to solve the problem.

A lot of it led back to dealing with deprivation, she said.

READ MORE: Child poverty level worst in 18 years, KidsCan says

"Mum and dad are working really hard. They might be making the sacrifice of 'Johnny's got a sore throat. Do I take him to the doctor or do I put a meal on the table?' They're the sorts of decisions that parents are having to make.

"So, we need to galvanise action to reduce these health issues. We need to be really impatient about this. The stats clearly show that we have a really daunting challenge ahead of us."

2022 the worst year for struggling families so far - Kidscan

Kidscan, a charity that provided essentials to Kiwi kids affected by poverty, had never seen things get so bad before.

CEO Julie Chapman founded Kidscan 18 years ago. She told Breakfast it became clear that 2022 was the toughest in its history for the families it supported when they started getting calls from distressed teachers.

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"One of the first things we noticed was teachers breaking down on the phone to us, which is something that has not really happened in the past 18 years. They are literally crying about the deprivation they are seeing their students and families living in."

The ongoing effects of Covid-19, record inflation, and the rising costs of fuel and food were all contributing to the problem, she said.

READ MORE: Cost of fruit and vegetables rises by 10%

Chapman said she had heard stories of people going without food, families on their last $20, early childhood centres doing laundry for families who couldn't afford the laundromat, schools having to pick up students from home because of fuel costs, and a family living in a shipping container.

"I think it's really important for people to know that those that are living in poverty are not down at the pub wasting their money buying cigarettes These people could budget us out of the room. They simply don't have enough money every week and cost of living has made it worse and they're at breaking point."

Kidscan has launched an urgent appeal so they can provide children with breakfast and morning tea.

Chapman said giving children food helped to make sure they could learn properly and take steps to break the poverty cycle.

On Tuesday, the Finance Minister acknowledged things were tough. Grant Robertson said that was why the Government had put in place a range of support.

National leader Christopher Luxon on Wednesday said tackling inflation is a key way to help combat child poverty.

Donate to KidsCan's $15 for 15 appeal.