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National MP calls on govt to take leadership role in children’s health

The head of the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, National MP Dr Paul Hutchison, is calling for the government to back his committee’s recommendations that more focus and funding needs to go to pregnant mothers and babies.

“We are calling for leadership from the top and the reason for that is indeed they are holding the purse strings [Finance Minister Bill English and Health Minister Tony Ryall]," Dr Hutchison says.

“I am very hopeful that they will look very seriously at this whole package and see the compelling sense of it,” he told TV One’s Q+A programme.

The government currently spends 14.7 billion dollars on health – half of which is spent on the health of the elderly. Dr Hutchison says he doesn’t expect cuts in this area but adds, “There will always be an issue of prioritisation”.

Dr Hutchison says the evidence for more child-focussed health care is overwhelming.

“We’re asking the government to put more focus and investment into the very early years of life because the evidence is overwhelming that the outcomes to improve children’s health are substantial,” he says.

Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King, who is a member of the Health Select Committee, says the committee has garnered cross-party support from those on it.

“This is the best report I have seen come out of a select committee that I have been involved in, in terms of the recommendations being agreed to by all members of the committee,” Mrs King says.

She says the recommendations take a big picture look at factors which impact on a child’s life.

“It’s not just about a treatment for children it’s about looking at the wide aspects that affect a child’s life – before birth right through to three and it looks at things like housing and early childhood education and into exercise and nutrition,” Mrs King says.

Dr Hutchison says in the long-term, spending the money on child now will pay dividends for New Zealand later on.

“This dollar spent very early on not only improves the health outcomes of the younger…it gives them the chance to be productive and lead highly functional and contributory lives – it’s a win for children, it’s a win for New Zealand’s economy.”