• Wyatt Creech

"New figures showing a dramatic drop in the number of infant deaths and cot deaths are encouraging, but National is committed to continuing to do more to turn other child health statistics around," Health Minister Wyatt Creech said today.

"Keeping children healthy and well, and giving extra attention to those at higher risk of poor health is one of the key priorities in National's Ten Point Health Action Plan.

"The Action Plan includes the Child Health Strategy and programmes such as home visiting, school visiting and special dental health programmes for those children in low socio-economic areas and for Maori and Pacific Island children.

"A number of the Child Health Strategy programmes are being put in place in South Auckland. We are working to develop more integration between health and other agencies in South Auckland to lift the health status of all living there.

"The "Health Action Zone" approach currently operating in Britain holds big potential for South Auckland. We are looking at building on the Strengthening Families programme and developing a "Health Action Zone" in South Auckland. This would see extra effort going into improving coordination between community, primary and secondary health providers and other agencies in the area."

Mr Creech said work had also started on the establishment of a Child Health Information Strategy.

"The Child Health Information Strategy will establish a network of inter-linked but flexible local information systems using current provider registers to benefit the health of children.

"At the individual child level it will ensure that more information is available to health providers. It will help with the coordination of services between providers, make it easier to follow up hard to reach children and ensure better information for monitoring, planning, education and research.

"We are putting more emphasis on preventing people from getting sick and getting them health care early.

"That is why I am pleased we are making progress to try to get on top of the meningitis epidemic. New Zealand has a particular strain of Meningitis (Serogroup B) - and there is no vaccine. The Ministry of Health has been working with the World Health Organisation and vaccine manufacturers to try to get one.

"We are now at the next step, which involves planning a small trial of potential vaccines before we move to carry out a larger clinical trial with one vaccine," Mr Creech said. "By February we should know which vaccines will be in the small trial.

"We are making big progress in health services, and in getting primary providers working together with secondary providers. I want to continue with this progress.

"Unnecessary and unsettling structural change just diverts everyone's attention from the job they want to be doing - helping keep people healthy and well. National is committed to just helping health professionals get on with the job of helping people," Mr Creech concluded.