Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Govt considers making pregnancy checks a national priority

The Government is considering making 10-week checks for pregnant women a national priority. Photo / Thinkstock
The Government is considering making 10-week checks for pregnant women a national priority. Photo / Thinkstock

The Government will consider making 10-week checks for pregnant women a national priority in response to a wide-ranging inquiry into improving children's health.

The National-led Government tabled its response today to a far-reaching, cross-party inquiry to improve the health of young people and reduce child abuse in New Zealand.

The 18-month investigation led to bold recommendations on maternity care, sexual education, alcohol abuse, and early intervention programmes.

Of the 130 recommendations made by the health select committee, the Government accepted 55, partially accepted 54, noted 14 and rejected seven.

"Overall, the Government supports the report and notes that it generally aligns with government priorities," the report said.

New initiatives in this year's Budget could address some of the recommendations made by the select committee.

Committee chairman National MP Paul Hutchison said he was delighted that Government would consider a new national health target for antenatal checks - one of the committee's key recommendations.

The inquiry found that the proportion of pregnant women getting assessed within 10 weeks was "Third World" - as low as 17 per cent in south Auckland.

"When you've got 86 per cent of Pacific and Maori women obese or overweight in Counties Manukau... there's just a huge opportunity to prevent morbidity and mortality both of the mum and the baby," he said.

Early checks would also help identify parents that were at high risk of abusing their children, he said.

At present, there are six national health targets including shorter waits for cancer treatment and improved access to elective surgery.

The committee recommended mandatory sex education in all schools which met the criteria of a landmark Ministry of Health review in 2008.

Government partially accepted this recommendation: "Consideration will be given to meet the criteria for success set out in the Ministry of Health review in conjunction with the education sector."

Among the recommendations it rejected were mandatory addition of folic acid to bread, regulating sugar intake, and introducing a fat tax or fizzy drink tax.

It also rejected recommendations to regulate the marketing of unhealthy food and to introduce more smoke-free areas.

Mr Hutchison said he expected that committee members would be disappointed that some recommendations were not immediately adopted, but many of the proposals were bold and controversial.

"The Government has left the possibility open for carrying out by far the majority of recommendations."

- NZ Herald

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