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Political unity to tackle child poverty

The Public Health Association (PHA) is backing the call for all politicians to make decisions that are fair so that all New Zealanders, particularly children, have the basics needed for healthy living.

An editorial in the New Zealand Medical Journal published on July 7, ahead of a symposium in Auckland and Wellington by world leading researcher Sir Michael Marmot, details the huge unfair burden of ill health and early death in New Zealand as the result of unjust policies, and what needs to be done to put the situation right.

New Zealand is ridiculously unfair.

We have children in poorer families, in Maori and Pacific families, dying or with their little lungs rotted, or having their tiny hearts damaged.

Their numbers are not just 25% more than other children, not just double the rate of other children, but up to 20 or 50 times the rate of other children.

These unnecessary and horrible health problems can be avoided.

Good health begins where we live, learn, work and play.

The most important thing is the political will to create fair and just policies so that all children, families and communities can flourish, not just the privileged.

Then that political will for fairness needs to carry on.

We need to invest in more services so that all children could have the opportunity for a healthy life.

Childhood is when the foundation of adult health and wellbeing is formed and hence neglecting it is shortsighted and irresponsible. By investing in our children, we are investing in a healthy, productive future for our country.

We also need to carry that focus on fairness through in health policies and services.

Dr Gay Keating is National Executive Officer of the Wellington based Public Health Association.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot is Director, International Institute for Society and Health and Research Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College, London. He is the Chair of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health of the World Health Organisation. He is also Vice President, Academia Europaea (the Academy of Europe), and Foreign Associate Member, The Institute of Medicine.

Sir Michael was the recipient of the Balzan Prize for Epidemiology in 2004. He gave the Harveian Oration in 2006 and won the William B. Graham Prize for Health Services Research in 2008.

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