Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Christchurch next priority

Mrs Chapman is sending 500 $27 head lice treatment packs to east Christchurch schools. Photo / Greg Bowker
Mrs Chapman is sending 500 $27 head lice treatment packs to east Christchurch schools. Photo / Greg Bowker

The KidsCan charity says an "epidemic" of poverty-related illnesses makes earthquake-damaged eastern suburbs of Christchurch its next priority for school-based health services.

Chief executive Julie Chapman said schools in the area that receive KidsCan food have reported increases in respiratory and skin infections because many families were forced to share housing after the February 2011 earthquake.

"We want to get in there now because of this epidemic of poverty-related diseases because of the poor housing conditions."

Mike Allen, principal of Aranui School in one of the worst-hit areas, says many parents can't afford treatment for their children.

"It's not the doctors' fees - children are free," he said. "It's the parents getting the children to the doctor and then paying for the treatment."

Mrs Chapman, who visited Christchurch last week to firm up plans, is sending 500 $27 head lice treatment packs to east Christchurch schools this week and hopes to provide other health services by the end of next term.

"We will look at expanding to provide hand sanitiser, tissues, band-aids, toothbrushes and toothpaste," she said. "The next step from there will be for us to establish a prescription fund and look at how we can get community health workers or doctors into the schools to treat the kids at school."

The Government's rheumatic fever programme does not cover Canterbury, but Mr Allen said he has a former dental clinic that could be used for health services and his board of trustees is keen.

"KidsCan is talking about having a doctor or nurse on site. That would be just incredible. So really there is enthusiasm for it, the sooner the better, preferably before winter."

Aranui and four surrounding schools were tagged last year to be merged. The five schools were left out of last week's confirmed closures of other schools in Christchurch, and have been granted an extended consultation period until March 7.

- NZ Herald

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