Elderly won't suffer from investment in youth health - committee head

By Teuila Fuatai

Paul Hutchison. Photo / APN
Paul Hutchison. Photo / APN

Investing more of New Zealand's health dollar in young Kiwis will not result in shortcomings for the elderly, the head of a parliamentary committee into child health says.

Dr Paul Hutchison, chairman of the health committee which this week made a raft of recommendations around early intervention health programmes, told TVNZ's Q + A the Government needed to reprioritise the health budget to better address the needs of many young New Zealanders.

"This dollar spent very early on, not only improves the health outcome of the younger, it gives them the chance to be productive and lead highly functional contributory lives."

"This is not about taking money from older people," Mr Hutchison said.

While managing New Zealand's health woes would always be an "issue of prioritisation", implementing recommendations made by the committee would create savings in the long-term, he said.

"I don't think it's actually going to cost all that more, if you think that in New Zealand, we have a tail of 15 to 20 per cent of children that are not succeeding, both physically and socially, and costing the country - even in their early years - for a whole range of conditions," he said on Q + A.

"If we do those things now, and it's compelling that we do, those children will have more quality life years into old age.

"In the medium to long term, it will save money."

Labour's Health spokeswoman Annette King, who also appeared on the programme, was supportive of the recommendations and hoped her party would adopt most of the committee's recommendations.

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Recommendations

*Research the cost-effectiveness of early intervention programmes from pre-conception to three years within 12 months.

*Set a national health target for all women to have an antenatal assessment within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

*Make sexual education mandatory in all schools and increase access to long-acting contraceptives.

*Develop an action plan with NGOs and private sector for evidence-based nutrition programmes.

*Develop an action plan to combat fetal alcohol syndrome, introduce warning labels on alcohol products, and consider higher taxes on alcohol.

*Consider expansion of early childhood education services in poor areas.

*Prime Minister to take on a formal leadership role in developing a cross-agency plan for children's health.

*Invest in a nationwide oral health campaign and transfer responsibility for fluoride additives to Ministry of Health and DHBs.

*Give support to funding for research on children's health, and match it to international benchmarks.

- additional reporting New Zealand Herald

- APNZ

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