Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Call for bold changes on children's health issues

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Up to 90 per cent of pregnant women will have to get an antenatal check within 10 weeks if the Government proceeds with bold recommendations made in a major inquiry into children's health and child abuse.

The far-reaching Parliamentary health committee inquiry makes a series of recommendations on issues ranging from sexual health to early childhood education.

One of the key recommendations is a new national health target to ensure pregnant women have a check-up early in their pregnancy.

"The rationale behind this recommendation is that the earlier in pregnancy that medical and social assessment can take place, the sooner intervention can occur if it is necessary," the committee's report said.

In parts of Auckland, the proportion of women seeing a doctor early in their pregnancy was as low as 16 per cent - a trend described as "Third World" by the inquiry's authors.

The committee suggested an initial target of 60 per cent, and noted that in Sweden 90 per cent of women were checked within eight weeks.

The inquiry also found high rates of unplanned pregnancy - between 40 and 60 per cent - and suggested mandatory sex education in schools and greater subsidies for long-acting contraceptives.

Bold changes were also proposed to reduce the high rate of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, including warning labels on all alcohol products and consideration of higher tax excises.

The committee recommended the Government undertake an economic analysis of early intervention programmes within 12 months and reprioritise funding and focus towards the period between pre-conception and three years of age.

The Government must respond to the inquiry within three months.

- NZ Herald

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