The Tom Column - Kids’ health the focus heading into new school year
We all know when kids are healthy and active they are better equipped to succeed at school.
That’s why this Government is committed giving their children the best possible start in life. Around 780,000 children under-13 are benefitting from free GP visits and prescriptions thanks to the $90 million invested over three years in Budget 2014. Latest figures show the rates of children under-13 visiting their GP is 23 per cent higher when compared to the same quarter last year. So far 99 per cent of GPs around New Zealand are offering free GP visits for under-13s.
Results have been particularly good for Māori and Pacific children. There was a 25 per cent increase in the number of Māori, and a 21 per cent increase in the number of Pacific children being seen by their GP – a great result.
With more children starting school for the first time this year, we’re already on track to exceed last year’s B4 School Checks numbers. In 2014/15 the programme reached a record 92 per cent, that’s over 58,000 pre-schoolers across the country – the highest rate since the programme began back in 2008. It’s been particularly encouraging to see an increase for Māori and Pacific four-year-olds with 87 per cent of Māori children and 88 per cent of Pacific children getting their B4 School Check last year.
The B4 School Check includes hearing, eyesight, height, weight, and oral health assessments, as well as comprehensive health and development questionnaires. Checks are provided free through a range of community health services.
On 1 July a new childhood obesity health target will come into force. Under the target, 95 per cent of children identified as obese in the B4 School Check will be referred to a health professional for assessment and family based nutrition, activity, and lifestyle interventions. The health target is one of 22 initiatives which form part of the Childhood Obesity Plan.
This National-led Government is committed to giving children the best start to life, and ensuring kids develop healthy habits early on to prevent poor health in adulthood. As the school year begins it’s good to know our children’s health needs are being better met than ever before.