The APAC forumFriday 21 September 2012, 2:38PM
Media release from the APAC forum
The vast majority of ill health in childhood is driven by poverty
and overcrowded housing, two leading paediatricians have told the
APAC Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care in Auckland.
In a joint presentation titled 'Future-proofing child health',
Hawke's Bay paediatrician and Children's Commissioner Dr Russell
Wills says children's health is a very good barometer of the social
wellbeing of a society.
"The fact that we're so busy reflects that things aren't going so
But he says there are local initiatives that have made an impact
on some areas of child health.
"These combine evidence-based solutions with a well-trained
workforce that's comfortable with and works well with socially
complex families - families who experience issues such as domestic
violence, mental illness and addiction.
"The common feature of those solutions tends to be several
agencies working together collaboratively, whether it's in a large
urban or a provincial setting. We use data and databases to make
sure that kids who most need care receive it, and we monitor the
performance of our services to help them improve."
Dr Wills says the immunisation rate for two-year-olds is 96
percent in Hawke's Bay, which has the fifth poorest child
population in the country.
"It's a perfect example of collaboration between public health,
GPs and practice nurses, early childhood education and government
and non-governmental social services, who have a clear objective,
make good use of data, and are doing the right things well with
Co presenter, Counties Manukau DHB paediatrician Dr Adrian
Trenholme stressed factors outside the health system need to be
addressed if population health, particularly child health, is to be
"Giving people high quality medical care is good for individuals,
but doesn't change the health of the whole population."
He agrees with Dr Wills that recent initiatives where primary,
secondary and tertiary health agencies work with other government
and non-government agencies at a local level are making a
These include the Healthy Housing Programme, where Housing New
Zealand and district health boards work together to reduced
overcrowding and the risk of health-related problems, improve
access to health and social services and increase awareness of
healthy living in three disadvantaged areas of the country.
"Housing is a huge one for us and there's evidence the programme
has reduced hospital admissions for children in South
In July, the first of 18 planned school-based clinics in South
Auckland to tackle rheumatic fever in five to 14-year-olds was
launched. There were 51 cases of acute rheumatic fever last year in
the Counties Manukau DHB region, with Māori and Pacific children
"In addition to the current public health nurse services,
nurse-led teams in each school will provide a programme of throat
swabbing and skin infection diagnosis and treatment with optional
Dr Trenholme says another study is looking at preventing chronic
lung disease in children who have been admitted to hospital. "This
is a collaborative between primary, tertiary and secondary care,
involving all agencies for these families, so as a model of health
care it might make a difference."