• Neil Kirton
Associate Minister of Health

Associate Health Minister Neil Kirton today said that greater efforts were required in the area of child health if all New Zealand children were to receive a healthy start to their lives. Child mortality rates were far too high by western standards.

"The United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child Report highlights inadequacies in policy-making and certainly child health is one of those areas.

"We have to face the reality that neglect of children does occur. The State cannot stand idly by. A much greater effort is required to ensure parents are getting access to services for their children," said Mr Kirton.

Mr Kirton said providing free health care for children aged five years and under is a step in the right direction.

"But that may not be enough to improve the health of at risk children. In those cases the parent often does not go to the doctor until too late. We need innovative programmes to take GPs and health teams direct to at risk communities."

Mr Kirton said he favoured having child and family teams, including GPs, assess new primary school entrants in at risk communities - would involve co-ordination between health, education and social welfare officials. He would be seeking further talks on this issue with other Ministers.

Mr Kirton said that he was not satisfied with the general standard of child health in New Zealand and that this would be a particular focus for his energies in his current term in office.